Management Is Not Leadership

Management is not synonymous with leadership. Although these terms are frequently used interchangeably, they encompass fundamentally different approaches to guiding organisations. In today's ever-changing world, the distinction between management and leadership is of paramount importance, and so is a manager's ability to provide leadership. Let's delve into the key differences and understand why, in this dynamic landscape, managers must embrace leadership qualities to thrive.
You can also read this post in

This is my first blog post in a series that addresses what leadership is and is not. My second post is: Me-dership is not leadership either – A critical lens on idealised leadership, and the third is Developing Your Unique Leadership Style.

Management: Structured Control

Management involves the organisation, planning, and control of business activities to attain specific goals and tasks. Managers perceive the organisation as a machine that requires adjustments and fine-tuning to achieve desired outcomes. They ensure that work complies with established standards and often make decisions, even on a detailed level. Management is centred on goal setting and the creation of stability, frequently following a hierarchical structure.

Leadership: Guiding Towards an Inspiring Vision

Leadership, conversely, is all about inspiring, motivating, and guiding employees and the organisation as a whole towards a long-term vision. Leaders view the organisation as an ecosystem that needs the right conditions to realise a shared vision. A leader’s primary objective is to empower others and, somewhat paradoxically, make themselves potentially redundant. They work towards setting a direction and creating a sense of purpose, acting as catalysts for change and can be found at all levels of an organisation.

Manager vs. Leader

Managers attain their positions through professional expertise and personal ambition. They are task- and goal-focused, defining and delegating work, managing and controlling progress. Their focus is on structure and procedures. Managers can often seem preoccupied and remote, engrossed in important meetings with superiors. Paradoxically, they can become bottlenecks and obstacles to an organisation’s development.

Leaders, on the other hand, ascend to their positions by unlocking the potential in others. They possess vision and strong social skills, facilitating collaboration and coaching employees while navigating uncertainty. Their focus centres on culture, environment, and relationships. Leaders are present and authentic, acting as catalysts for the organisation’s development. They adjust their behaviour according to the situation and employees needs. 

Why Managers’ Ability to Provide Leadership is Important

Organisations are inherently political and deeply complex. What transpires within them is a consequence of employees acting in ways that make sense to themselves. Organisational dynamics result from the interplay of individual members’ professional and personal intentions. How employees will react to a plan or strategy is unpredictable. This is why management falls short in today’s environment. Managers cannot control what happens in an organisation. If they attempt to do so, it can come across as manipulative. Instead, they must attempt to influence employees through sensemaking. To achieve this, several aspects of one’s personal behaviour as a leader become important.

The Importance of Integrity

Integrity is a critical aspect. It arises when stated values and fundamental assumptions are in harmony. Essentially, you must act in line with the values you claim to have, even when facing pressure or impulsive reactions. When values are not in harmony, these stated values become mere decorations. The absence of integrity leads to frustration, scepticism, conflicts, and, potentially, the departure of top talent. People simply will not believe or trust you if you do not act with integrity.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

In the realm of effective leadership, emotional intelligence, encompassing elements such as self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and influence, plays a pivotal role. It is the ability to understand and manage one’s emotions and those of others. Leaders, in particular, need a high degree of emotional intelligence to navigate the intricate and unpredictable nature of human interactions within organisations. While managers often focus on processes and procedures, leaders, armed with their emotional intelligence, are attuned to the nuances of individual and collective emotions. This empathetic approach fosters better relationships, builds trust, and helps unite teams towards a shared vision. Emotional intelligence is the key to inspiring, motivating, and guiding employees, which distinguishes leaders from mere managers in today’s ever-changing world.

The Importance of Presence and Authenticity

In the realm of effective leadership, two key qualities, presence and authenticity, emerge as indispensable. Daily presence as a leader involves more than attending meetings and issuing directives. It means engaging in small talk with subordinates, remembering the name of their spouse, and perhaps even the breeds of their dogs. These seemingly minor acts of recognition and connection are vital leadership traits. They convey the message that each employee is seen, valued, and respected. This fosters an environment where team members feel comfortable bringing both bad news and groundbreaking ideas to the table.

Authenticity is the second pillar of effective leadership. It transcends merely adhering to the organisation’s stated values. It involves aligning one’s actions with personal values. When there is harmony between these values, leadership is perceived as genuine. However, failing to act in line with personal values can render one’s leadership style artificial. This incongruity may lead to personal distress and the risk of eventual burnout from the stress of leading a divided professional life.

The Imperfect World and Manager-Leader Transition

The world is far from perfect, characterised by rapidly accelerating changes. Simultaneously, organisations are political and complex ecosystems where each member acts based on their intentions. As a manager, one must relinquish the illusion of control and learn to navigate this unpredictable environment.

A manager’s ability to embody leadership and foster a sense of purpose is essential for success in this ever-changing world. They must see the development of the organisation as their primary responsibility, creating the best possible conditions for achieving results. Authenticity, integrity, and situational leadership become key qualities.

Change begins with one’s willingness to embrace it. The transition from manager to leader is an ongoing journey of self-improvement and adaptation to the demands of the dynamic world we live in.

If you are ready to embark on this journey of self-insight, reflection, and change, our Authentic Leadership programme may hold the key for you. This six-month programme comprises three-hour virtual meetings every four weeks. It includes a 360 Reflected Best Self assessment, discussions on articles, dialogues with a reflection partner, and training in groundbreaking models and approaches to exercise your authentic leadership. 

You can also begin by reflecting on your personal leadership style. Get our workbook sample about Situational and Authentic Leadership by filling the form above.

In the next blog post: Me-dership is not leadership either – A critical lens on idealised leadership, we will address the misconception of leaders mostly being concerned about themselves and their reputation rather than really being leaders for the ones they lead.


Small talking as a leadership sklii

Related Blog Post

10 advantages of using Sprint Goals

At Better Change, we believe in the power of team collaboration to deliver value in organisations. An important and often overlooked aspects of this is the use of Sprint Goals. They are clear, concise objectives set for each Sprint that provide direction and focus to Scrum teams.

Mastering Difficult Conversations: A Comprehensive Guide for Leaders

Have you ever been in a situation where a difficult conversation was needed? Me too! Did you like it? Me neither! However, conflicts and the need for difficult conversations are fundamental aspects of leadership - and life in general. Over two decades in management, I've navigated numerous tough conversations, from issuing formal warnings to terminating relationships. Each situation significantly impacted those involved, teaching me to align these discussions with my personal values and maintain my integrity. In this article I have gathered some perspectives and advice.

Scaling Challenges: A CIO’s Perspective

Many CIOs begin ambitious scaling initiatives, aiming to unlock agility and expedite time-to-market. However, the path can be riddled with unexpected hurdles. This article explores common roadblocks and offers guidance…

Related Training

Related Resources

How to Run a Retrospective

Running an effective retrospective is crucial for continuous improvement in Agile teams. If you’ve ever felt that your team’s retrospectives are lacking direction or failing to produce actionable insights, you’re…

More Posts

Let's Talk About
How We Can Help!

Are you enjoying our articles? Even better you can talk to us in person! Get in touch with us so we can schedule something!