Leadership isn’t management

My gripe for today.


I cringe when I hear the phrase ‘distributed leadership’.

I fight back the rage building within me whenever I hear someone exchange the term ‘manager’ for the term ‘leader’.

Let me be clear about this – I love the concept of distributed leadership. The world would be a wonderful place if the people with the vision and passion were given the space to drive change. My gripe however is this – people seem to be using these two terms interchangeably.  ‘Leadership’ and ‘management’ are not the same thing, for one very simple reason: accountability.

Sure, ‘leadership’ is a quality we would hope ‘managers’ exhibit, and one would hope that any organisation would provide opportunities for staff to develop their skills both in terms of leadership and in terms of management, but they are not the same thing. You can be a leader because you have the vision and drive to make change happen. You are a manager because you are accountable. Leadership is a whole subject in it’s own right, but it’s also a really important subset of management.


Ignore the rest of management at your peril.

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2 thoughts on “Leadership isn’t management”

  1. You’re right Andrew, leadership is vital and I’d say its the one thing we really need today. I always think about Steve Jobs – there is no doubt that he was always a great leader but very often a poor manager. Those management skills had to evolve over time.

    If we don’t give our great potential leaders opportunities to lead AND manage how will they ever develop those skills.

    It’s something that has been at front of my mind recently given my current position. 😐

    1. I think leadership is an essential characteristic of a good manager – I think my point however is that too often, people overlook the critically important functions of management in favour of the buzzword of leadership. The sad fact is that much of management tasks do not really require leadership, but are essential in ensuring smooth operation and achievement of objectives. You mention great potential leaders – I’d rather have one leader who can articulate a vision clearly supported by good managers than a dozen leaders who can’t manage!

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