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Colin Mercer

Colin Mercer



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Thought Leadership


Management vs Leadership

The terms Management and Leadership typically refer to different, albeit related, concepts.

The main distinction is usually around the initiation of change – management is primarily concerned with transactional activity, leadership with transformational activity:









Taking care of business process, planning, delivery, quality, productivity

Inspiring, enlivening employees, colleagues, customers

Tending to regular and emerging business needs

Setting direction, communicating, painting a compelling picture

Handling the details of business

Building the culture, capturing imagination, propagating learning, role-modelling excellence

Ensuring order, co-ordination and alignment

Ensuring organisational performance and sustainability

Stabilise of the system


Energise the system

“Do things right”


“Do the right things”


Which is more important depends on the nature of the role, and the level of seniority. In the roughest of senses, Management most closely aligns with operational activity, and Leadership with strategy. But of course there are plenty of roles that demand both, especially in small or medium sized enterprises.

Do you get both sets of skills in the same individual? In our experience, most executives tend to gravitate towards a more operational, process focus (a COO type) or a more strategic, opportunity focus (a CEO type). Much of this preference relates to personality, and is quite identifiable through sound psychometrics.

What are the consequences of having one without the other at the top of the organisation?











Lack of ambition, un-exciting, slowness or inertia, incremental improvement but not paradigm-shift innovation, little sense of mission






Delivery failures, lack or role-clarity, poor co-ordination, initiative-fatigue, dashed-hopes ie. early excitement that sours into employee disaffection


The good news is that there are a limited number of individuals who seem adept at both. Even these people however, will tend to display a leaning. In the true spirit of Wickland Westcott, we will nail our colours to the mast. Clearly it depends on the role, but ceteris paribus, we recommend going for a top-notch implementer with some strategic skills, ahead of a top-notch strategist with some operational skills. We do not subscribe to the view, implied in some quarters, that Leadership is sexy whereas Management is boring and mundane. B-grade strategy with A-grade implementation always trumps A-grade strategy with B-grade implementation.

The other key implication, of course, is to ensure you have a mix of these different skills in the top team.


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