Leaderment or Manageship

Since I’ve been in any form of organization, no matter how big or small, there’s always been an attempt to make a distinction between managers and leaders. There are all kinds of definitions that attempt to make the distinction, like this one from Warren Bennis, “Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right things.” And for the most part they’ve done a great job convincing us of the difference.

May I suggest that the distinction between the two is not helpful in today’s business environment!

The lines between manager and leader have become very blurred. In this highly pressurised environment there just isn’t time to make the distinction any more. We’re thin on the ground. We need managers to lead and leaders to manage. Perhaps it’s time to scrap both these terms and come up with a new one. Of course that’s not going to happen. There’s too much money to be made by keeping them separate. Step outside of academia for a while and ask those on the ground whether they’re managers or leaders? Their answer is almost always both. And this is not because they’re not smart enough to understand the difference, it’s because today’s business environment requires them to do both and to be both.

Today, almost all of our work functions are highly documented. Is there a business function left in the world that doesn’t have a manual attached to it, showing in accurate detail, how to go about what it is you do whenever you’re doing it? With that much detail why do we need managers? Just follow the manual. Managers in the context of these manuals have become the go-to reference people. You go to your manager when you’re not sure how to interpret the manual, not because you don’t know what to do.

The role of leader has also shifted considerably. Tom Peters has the following to say, ““In weird, wild, text-book defiant times like these, the
model of leaders as ‘all knowing commander and order-giver extraordinaire’ is fatally and fundamentally flawed.” Increasingly, organisations are moving away from this model. People all over the organisation are being asked to take up the role of leader. (Leaders and Leadership at every level)

If management as a term is defined as ‘getting work done through people’, then one can quite safely say that management as a discipline is extremely healthy. Never before has so much been produced and delivered by so few people. Managers focus on ‘getting the work done’.

The role of leader is on the people. My colleague Keith Coats defines the role of the leader as ‘Helping people navigate change’. Leadership, like management is very healthy. Never before have we known so much about people than we do currently. Of course there is much room for improvement in both disciplines.

In football, one of the ways you differentiate yourself and add value is to learn from an early age to kick with both your left and right feet. In organisations we need people who can manage and lead with equal ability. It’s tough out there. The roles traditionally executed by managers and leaders need to be combined into one body. We can no longer afford to have our people schooled in only one discipline. Our leaders must manage and our managers must lead.

The challenge will not be in how we do this, or how we develop our people. The merging of these two disciplines is happening right now. As I said earlier, find someone who has some responsibility within any organisation and ask them if they’re managers and leaders? Those on the coal-face are on the front of the curve (as they always are). The challenge will be for those with much to lose (current leaders and academia) to accept a changing world and the need for new frameworks.

Long Live Leaderment / Manageship, Long Live!


3 thoughts on “Leaderment or Manageship”

  1. Peter Veysie says:

    Heh buddy – so good to see your brain squishing out good stuff man. I am so on the same page as you with leaderment and manageship – Just thought about sailing and the effect of the rudder and the the keel in sync with the sail and the wind. When there is synergy you fly. I am sailing a 23 foot keeler and know when this happens – It makes me sing – wooohoooo. Hope to see you soon bud – Pete Veysie

  2. Tobie Engelbrecht says:


    Great thinking and dialogue – why do we always want to fragment and not apply intertaively and holistically. Maybe this can stimultae the emerging of an innovative new term replacing “management” or “leadership”.


  3. Laura Malan says:

    Hi Barrie

    Am also on the same page as you with respect to this debate 🙂

    I often talk to my clients and delegates about the “ying-yang” of leadership & management to illustrate that the two are so interconnected with one another and necessary in today’s world that attempting to distinguish in concrete terms for me is increasingly irrelevant. Applying a more wholistic orientation makes sense to me as Tobie suggests…

    Love the choice of title as a result!

    Kind Regards

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