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Russell Deathridge

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Are leadership and management development two different things?


The distinction between leadership and management is a red herring, says Russell Deathridge of Kenexa, as the two are increasingly coming together.


Does your organisation distinguish between management training and leadership development? In Western economies, more so than emerging markets, the lines between the two have become blurred.

As Joanna Kozubska, in her book, The Seven Keys of Charisma (1997), says: "There are times when a leader needs good, systematic management skills and times when a manager must inspire people. We have to be able to do both." This has significant implications for the way that leaders and managers should be developed in mature markets.

The distinction between management training and leadership development arose because a consensus grew that management was about the issues of today, requiring efficient organisation and implementation, whereas leadership was about the future and involved motivation, vision and managing change.  

Different skills were therefore needed, so discrete development solutions evolved to meet these needs. Training programmes are now available to cover managerial tasks such as planning, organising, staffing, reporting and budgeting. Often lead by a specialist, these can be finely tuned to meet the requirements of a particular participant population.

"Businesses want leaders at all levels who can inspire individuals and the organisation to greater success."

In contrast, leadership development programmes often look not at the "what" of a manager’s role but rather the "how". Typically, these programmes will stem from one of the many different theories about leadership. Some of the key theories are:

  • Situational leadership - different circumstances require different forms of leadership.
  • Leadership traits - by examining the traits of great leaders, employees can copy and develop them.
  • Leadership behaviour - looking at what leaders actually do, rather than their traits; the theory being that if we can define successful leadership behaviour, we can train others to replicate it in the workplace.
  • Authentic leadership - encouraging leaders to be true to themselves and take unconditional responsibility. 
  • Transactional leadership - the mutual benefit from an exchange-based relationship, where the leader offers certain things, such as resources or rewards, in return for the follower’s commitment.
  • Leader as hero - the theory that leaders are born with innate, unexplainable skills and charisma; consequently they are elevated to hero status.
  • Attribution - recognising the importance of followership and concentrating on the factors which induce people to follow a particular leader.       
  • Transformation - proactively motivating others, to breed commitment not just compliance.

Whichever model or training vehicle is used, the essential difference between management and leadership development is in the role of the facilitator. Management training requires the facilitator to remain very much in an instructor role, imparting new information to the participants. On the other hand, leadership development - because it focuses on the ‘how’ - means that the facilitator has to actually facilitate, in the truest sense. He or she needs to create an environment where the participants feel confident enough to articulate their development needs, examine how they can fulfil them and practise different approaches in order to close any gaps.

While leadership development had to rely on and reference managerial responsibility, management training did not need to reference leadership experience. An instructor could lead a successful, practical management session in isolation from any leadership capability or behaviour. In other words, they could operate quite successfully in a leadership vacuum. This led to some participants seeing leadership development as something "for them upstairs" and not as something that was instrumental to their everyday operational tasks. 

Strategic responses

Fundamentally, leadership is proactive. Effective leaders anticipate problems and opportunities and they motivate and develop strategic responses. In contrast, management is reactive. When problems develop, managers respond. In the past, this was the key difference that was reflected in the way that leadership and management were developed. Now though, the two are coming together.

This is predominantly because the role of a manager has changed. Today’s team managers have to process more data and react more swiftly than they did even ten years ago. However, they are also charged with taking responsibility for the morale, well-being and development of their teams, something that was appreciated but perhaps not expected before.

At the same time, there has been a cultural change in the expectations of employees. Managers may be responsible for the commercial aspect of their team’s performance, however in achieving these goals, employees expect that the manager will behave not as a dictator but as a colleague, not as the boss but as a coach.

The simple truth is that today’s organisations no longer want managers who can maintain the status quo; they want leaders at all levels who can inspire individuals and the organisation to greater success. That’s why focussing on the distinction between leadership and management development is a red herring.

Instead, organisations should be highlighting the link between managerial training interventions and leadership responsibility. The question now for those who work in people development is: when you build and structure management/leadership development programmes, do you inadvertently reinforce the outmoded gap between the two concepts, or are you bringing the two together?

Russell Deathridge is a consultant at Kenexa Leadership, the leadership development specialist. He can be contacted at



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