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Which came first, Leadership or Management? by Margaret Burnside

Welcome to the fourth guest post in this series. I hope you’ve enjoyed the sharing of perspectives in response to the statement that “There is no such thing as Management”.

Today’s post comes from my good friend, collaborator and near neighbour Margaret Burnside (@MargaretBurnsid). With boundless energy, Margaret is one of those generous & ethical people you find in life who are full of insight and just a pleasure to know. I hope that you enjoy her post!

Which came first, Leadership or Management?

This is always an interesting area to explore and often is the starting discussion on many leadership or management development programmes. I typically encourage discussion and debate around the differences between the two and usually ask groups to create a visual representation of their group’s view of the difference.

The debrief from these exercises usually involves me clarifying that there is a difference between the job title of leader and manager and the activities of leadership and management. Job titles can be misleading and in many organisations ‘leader’ is used for the more junior position of ‘Team Leader’ and ‘Manager’ is associated with more senior roles. I like to encourage the debate through sharing a couple of quotes:

Colin Powell says:

“Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible”

This usually implies a number of things:

Leadership appeals to emotion; engages more; encourages more discretionary effort; is harder to measure; less tangible inputs for greater outputs


Management is about numbers; analysis; resource planning; rational thought

So – Art versus Science then …

This may also give rise to the premise that management can be taught, leadership is almost genetic, a natural talent, so can only be nurtured, not taught?

The perception that leadership is sexy and management is dull and boring is important to challenge, I think John Kotter’s quote helps to balance this and shows the importance of both:

“Managers manage complexity and Leaders lead change”

– sort of saying to me that ‘it’s all very well those leaders looking to change things, make their mark, enhance their career – someone has to sort out the details, make it work, align staff to new ways of working!’

And one more:

“You can be appointed a manager, but you only become a leader when your appointment is ratified in the hearts and minds of those working around you.” (John Adair)

So, suggesting that it’s other people who decide you are a leader rather than it being conferred through your position or job title.

I usually conclude by summarising that most roles require both leadership and management, usually on a continuum and the skill is to know what is required when and apply it. Very rarely are people required to offer leadership or management solely in their role. It may be helpful to recognise a preference for one end of the spectrum or the other to help identify development needs against the job requirements.

With respect to the previous post maybe it is about how we interpret the words, however, in helping people to develop both leadership and management I think it can be helpful to tease out differences, respect the need for both and encourage people to consciously apply each as needed. What do you think?


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