Why Leader v Manager is the wrong question!

I noticed a tweet yesterday “today we will be thinking about what is the difference between Leaders and Managers?”

My response was “maybe your question should be the difference between leadership and management as your question implies that its a status rather than a behaviour?”

So walking the dog this morning, I mused some more on this tweet and I realised that I am also guilty of asking the same question when I am running leadership programmes. In the first half day of a session, getting a sense of where people are and what the view is in the room, I unconsciously  slip out out “so discuss the difference between a leader and a manager”. So lazy, on my part, and in fact its the wrong question.

Firstly, what do we mean by a leader and a manager, they are meaningless titles because we are all both, and in fact I am coming round to the fact that we have made management a “dirty word”, we place little value on it and we believe  that leadership is some panacea for our ills. Frequently getting them jumbled up and confusing metaphors from sport.

Maybe the better question is “what are we doing when we are doing management, and what are we doing when we are doing leadership” or something like that. In essence, lets talk about whats each one is actually achieving, having equal regard for both, and lets be brave to talk about the pros and cons of each.

I would welcome your thoughts to add to my musing.

To be continued….


“A Poor workman always blames his tools”. (RIP Bill Perry)

I responded to a tweet the other day which had the headline “kill email”. I get the sentiment and I know the writer so therefore I imagine it was being provocative to get us to think about the impact of email and how much its made us lazy and avoiding dialogue with others.

I admit to being a fan of email. I could not survive as a worker in a shed without email to help me engage with others, to share documents, and to share clippings and usual information as a natural collaborator.

When I saw the tweet that said “kill email”, I responded “like all tools, its not the tool but the behaviour that has to change”. This comment got me  a few retweets so I concluded that others were in disagreement.

It was my father that often said “a poor workman who always blames his tools”, and as I write I have reflected on his generation. Sadly he died a couple of years ago, but he did national service at the end of the war and carried out peace keeping in Italy and Palestine, and as a Coldstream Guard stood outside Buckingham Palace. I imagine that generation endured some hardship, and as a result had a “make do” attitude. Accepting what little they had and made the best of it. Probably no switching fancy phones or apps like the wind.

My background is in Production Engineering. An apprenticeship followed by sponsorship to do a degree. Possibly my nature, I questioned everything and quickly I got a sense of waste in the workplace. I saw numerous practices that people did not question or challenge either through ignorance or just simply settling for a simple life, or those above “know best” so you did not question it. All the way through my career in engineering and production management I have seen and experienced poor processes, and functional practises that have no connection to what the customer really wants, and as a result we go off in search of the new tool or system to automate and speed up the processing.

Of course the flaw, like most systems its the garbage we put in it, or we keep on putting in. Just like the over used quote “if we always do, what we always did, then we always get what we always got”.

Email has issues. But in the large, its not email thats the problem but the behaviours that people use. People hide behind it, sending an email believing that constitutes action, over use and mis use of CC, and sometimes a call would make much more sense. I know that twitter and even Instagram has removed some of the need for email, because it is after all the connections that matter.

So in memory of my Dad, lets not blame the tools, lets do better work!

Get rid of the white lines, and its not just about the bike!


I cycle a lot, and so I am drawn to lots of coverage of cycling on twitter and other news feeds. I also have teenage sons who are keen to ride so therefore as any parent might be I am conscious of their safety on the roads so take an interest in cycle safety as well as being dismayed by the poor driving, arrogance and ignorance of many drivers.

There was an article a few weeks ago (the source I can’t remember) that argued for the removal of white lines in roads as it was proven that there was a resulting reduction in accidents involving bikes and overtaking cars. The hypothesis was that the centre white lines created a feeling of restriction to overtaking cars, and increasing the likelihood that cars would overtake bikes too closely. Its really quite scary when a car passes you closely at speeds over 30mph. Trust me!

I was out on my bike yesterday, on quiet Sunday roads, and this was brought back into focus when a sports car passed close to me on a bend and cut right in front of me. My usual arm waving and V sign over, my thoughts reflected on the white lines.

So as I continued my ride, and my coherence returning to my human rather than my “chimp” brain I thought about work and organisations and how the white lines might have an impact on our behaviour and thinking.

So why do we have them? We clearly need guidelines and limits to ensure our safety and bring a required amount of order. They create certainty, and give us a direction of travel (excuse the pun). They are comfortable, we know our boundaries and within the lines we can create and innovate. I wondered though whether we might become complacent because we are within the lines. They get us there without having to think, and perhaps we can go faster as we don’t need to be that alert as the “oncoming traffic” is also within the lines.

So I challenge you to think about what lines you are following. Are you on auto, not really being that mindful of whats happening, whats oncoming, could you even get rid of the lines?

and if you are out in the car, please, please, please remember we are not cased in steel!





Management books take up hundreds of pages and thousands of words building a case with which to support the author’s hypothesis. There’s an enormous amount of padding out of case studies and other people’s research involved. Dry academic subjects are enlivened with witty prose. You often reach the end and think “Damn right! But didn’t we already know that?”

And you know what? You’re right. We do know this stuff. Intuitively. But it’s conditioned out of us. The more we progress, the more responsibility and accountability we take and are given the more we unlearn the simple truths about being an effective leader of people. Ever wondered why CEOs invite other people to the annual conference to offer motivational speeches? Why those same CEOs are not motivational and inspiring enough in and of themselves? It’s because they fail to consistently demonstrate the most simple principles of leadership.

All of those…

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