Leadership versus Management

I have recently read a number of blogs that discuss the differences between leadership and management and the importance of getting it right. I believe this topic is now top of mind as recognition is growing that people and thereby talent is the fulcrum on which any successful company needs to establish itself.

A very smart colleague once said to me that there are three competencies that you need in any successful organisation and each one is intrinsically linked.

The first is functional competence; the ability, talent and skills to conduct tasks, to execute processes, to undertake agreed actions and to deliver on the agreed plans of the organisation. Clearly you need people who are knowledgeable on a subject area, are confident enough to make decisions and can deliver on the outcomes that add value to a business.

The second area is managerial competence; the role of management is to enable the functional teams to perform to the best of their ability. It is about unlocking their potential and enabling them to deliver exceptional work. This includes:

  • Structured planning.
  • Resource allocation.
  • Clear goal setting.
  • Removing challenges and barriers.
  • Developing skills.
  • Aligning expertise to areas of need.
  • Ensuring the talent available fits the needs of the business.

It is also about how to promote and achieve collaboration. Two minds are always better than one and it is therefore essential that management enable collaboration at every opportunity.

The final area of competence is leadership; leadership is about creating the right conditions for the company to succeed. My personal view is that this all starts with a brand vision. A great brand vision can positively impact a company in two ways:

  • It provides clarity of purpose and a very well defined journey as to how success will be achieved.
  • It creates the right environment by establishing a set of principles and cultural values that motivate, inspire and impassion everyone to go the extra mile and deliver the best possible work for the organisation.

I am a great fan of Jim Collins and I believe his description of a level 5 leader in “Good to Great” hits this nail on the head when he said “A Level 5 leader displays a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” It is the joining together of the right culture with clarity of purpose that defines great leadership.


Interestingly if you follow this logic, leaders need to create a vision and culture that supports managers who then need to use this to unlock the potential of all employees. It is in effect an upside down organisation chart. So in this type of organisation, here is a list of behaviors I would hope to see:

  • A vision and clarity of purpose brought to life through great storytelling.
  • Inertia created through continuous engagement & communication.
  • Personal conviction built through authenticity, trust and direct face-to-face engagement.
  • Leadership providing direction rather than directives.
  • An empathetic working environment that builds connectivity and collaboration.
  • Promotion of diversity of thought as this enhances innovation, sharing and transparency.
  • Humility winning over hubris.
  • Empowered people who are confident to break new ground.
  • A caring culture as this deepens relationships and enables personal goals to be connected to company objectives.
  • Supportive management as this enhances productivity.
  • A fun environment as this is the best way to motivate the delivery of outstanding work.

What would be on your list?


2 thoughts on “Leadership versus Management

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