The difference between management and leadership is one that has been discussed often. This debate is more than a semantic exercise. It is about going beyond semantics to arrive at a true understanding of leadership.

In my view, management and leadership are inextricably linked. Because of this there is more value in assessing how the two are aligned as opposed to delineating differences.

Traditionally a manager is viewed as someone who assigns tasks, focuses on systems, is concerned with day-to-day operations and ‘goes by the book’, because they know that this is a sure way of getting a known result. A leader is often viewed as the opposite — someone who is a visionary, who questions the status quo and who is focused on the bigger picture.

Unhelpfully this view can give the impression of the manager as an unthinking stalwart and the leader as a dreamer with their head in the clouds!

Neither view is accurate.

In today’s interdependent economy the real value lies in pulling the strengths of both management and leadership together to contribute to a shared vision.

What is emerging is a shift in the role of a manager — to ‘manage’ (a restrictive word!) their people and also to lead them. A leadership style of management is one where a manager assigns tasks and also creates tasks in conjunction with their team. It is where a manager sets a purpose and is focused on engaging people in that purpose to meet organisational goals. It is where skills and talents are nurtured and married with practical objectives. It is about breaking down the barriers between “boss” and “employee” and fostering an environment of co-creativity.

Back to semantics then. Is it helpful for managers to still be called managers despite the fact their role will most likely entail a leadership element? Should we ‘ban’ the word manager? What do you think?

Tania Watson is the founder of Creative Coaching and an executive coach, organisational consultant and leadership specialist. Creative Coaching is a successful company dedicated to the development of senior leaders in organisations through one to one coaching, intact team development and group facilitation. If you or someone from your organisation would like to have a no obligation conversation about how Creative Coaching may be able to help, please email Tania directly at

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