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Jo Keeler

Belbin Associates


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In a leader’s world, let’s champion the manager


There’s a new and worrying trend in our industry – the denigration of “management” in favour of “leadership”.

Comparisons of the two like to contrast – for simplicity – a controlling, top-down, authoritarian management style with a humble, authentic, self-aware leader who inspires others.

But hold on, we need good managers. They’re the ones who navigate the team from point to point, delegating the work and dealing with issues that arise along the way. Visionaries are all well and good, but without people to assign work (and deal with the needs, relationships and performance of the people who will be doing that work) the team is likely to drift aimlessly or, worse still, pull in opposite directions.

And good managers have some of those so-called ‘leadership’ qualities anyway. If we want to promote changes in management style – from authoritarian to consultative, for example – disparaging managers in favour of leaders won’t help. It doesn’t alter a manager’s principal job and is nothing more than a needless brand change which conceals the underlying problem.

We can’t abdicate responsibility for the messy, difficult part of business – human nature – and that is exactly what this trend is attempting to do.

Fact check

Gallup finds that only 1 in 10 people possess the talent to manage others, and that the manager’s talent is the greatest predictor of performance across different industries and types of role.  They also claim that 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores is attributable to managers and how effectively they guide their teams.

Instead, let’s give managers the tools to manage effectively. How about a language to help them understand what individuals in their team have to offer, how they can best play to their strengths and where they’re likely to need help?

So, the research shows it is managers who transform teams. A good manager engages their people by enabling each person to play to their strengths and delegating work in a way that best benefits the team and organisation as a whole.

Belbin has been helping managers for decades and 87% of our customers say that using Belbin helps managers manage their teams more effectively.

Our advice to managers is simple:

  • Understand the Belbin Team Roles (unique behavioural contributions) of those in your team, so you know who is suited to which kinds of work and who to involve at each stage of a project.
  • Use the language of Team Roles to help promote healthy working relationships, address performance issues, and depersonalise and resolve conflicts in the team.
  • Don’t forget your own learning – encourage your team to provide feedback as part of the Belbin exercise, so you can identify your strengths and weaknesses in their eyes. Use this knowledge to help formulate your own personal development strategy.

It may not be a fashionable thing to say right now, but managers, we’re with you all the way.

Next Steps

Introduce your managers to the language of Belbin - encourage them to complete the Belbin SPI, get feedback from those they manage, and spend time going through the generated Belbin Report. Are there differences in the feedback? Open a dialogue.

Talk to us about running a session for your managers and their teams – start the team conversation.

Want to know more about how Belbin can help? Call us on 01223 264975, email [email protected], or visit

Gallup, “The Matrix: Teams Are Gaining Greater Power in Companies”, May 2016

Author Profile Picture
Jo Keeler


Read more from Jo Keeler

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