“The false dichotomy between ‘leaders’ and managers’  stems from the absurd notion that organizations need ‘leaders’ at the top and a staff of ‘managers’ at all levels below them – a modern form of Plato’s class distinction between kings / Philosophers (leaders), guardians (managers) and workers/slaves. This is an early form of Taylorism.

The issue is really whether or not the management of a company are leaders. They are the leadership (role). The issue is whether or not they have leadership (attribute). The first thing you have to check, is if they do actually know what their role is. A surprising number of managers are victims of tunnel vision: they see a narrow range of task functions and not more. Don’t ever criticize a manager for not being a leader if no one ever told him or her what the role is. Rather criticize the inept organization that appointed them.

It all come down to the question of: what are you being paid to do? What we call the answer – leadership or management or something else – doesn’t matter.”

– Adair, J. (2005). How to Grow leaders. Philadelphia, PA: Kogan Page.

Leadership vs. Management is one of those topics that re-appears over and over again. I have fallen victim to many long discussions where both parties were so assured of their correctness they just keep repeating clichés like “Leaders lead people. Manager manage tasks. There is a difference.”

I do not think the difference is all that great, managers are leaders – just as leaders are managers.

I am all for discourse of ideas, especially of a philosophical nature and the Management Leadership discussion is epistemic. There are many different ideas of knowledge and knowing that leads us in circles of obfuscation.

I refer to John Adair for my foundational answer to management vs. leadership, above is what Adair writes (I have paraphrased some lines).


  • What are your thoughts?
  • The line “don’t criticize the manager, criticize the inept organization” shifts the blame from a personal to organizational; is that where it should be?



michael cardus is create-learning