Blog – Management Is Not A Dirty Word

Shaun McCarthy, Managing Director and Chairman Human Synergistics Australia

I want to comment on an interesting phenomenon we are experiencing right now – the love of leadership and possible disdain for management.

Some years ago we launched the Leadership/Impact® (L/I) feedback instrument. This tool differs from the LSI in that it profiles the ‘impact’ the leader has on those they lead – how others believe they are expected to behave as a consequence of the leadership strategies (also measured) enacted by the leader. In this way it provides the leader with feedback on the influence he/she has on the organisation’s culture. Designed specifically for senior leaders (primarily the C suite), we more recently launched Management/Impact® (M/I) for senior managers in smaller organisations and middle managers in larger ones.

We have observed an interesting reaction when we talk about the M/I being more appropriate (than the L/I) for a certain group of managers – “but our managers are leaders so we want a leadership tool”. Even though these managers are called ‘managers’ (eg Marketing Manager) there seems to be some reticence in providing them with feedback about how they manage.

To start, I want to quote one of my favourite writers, Henry Mintzberg: “The problem….the current literature focuses on individual aspects of the managerial role (eg leadership)….whereas management needs to be seen in a more integrated fashion. Instead of distinguishing leaders from managers we should encourage all managers to be leaders. And we should define ‘leadership’ as management done well.” (Mintzberg 1994)

When Warren Bennis wrote about the difference between leadership and management, I do believe that by attributing such verbs as ‘innovate’ and ‘inspire’ to leaders and ‘administer’ and ‘control’ to managers (Bennis 1989), he inadvertently made leadership sound sexy and management sound boring. Everyone wants to be a leader, but I am concerned that maybe no one wants to be a manager.

There is clearly a difference between leadership and management in terms of the roles. This is best encapsulated in Kotter’s (1990) quote: Leadershipinvolves defining an overall agenda (vision and strategies) and inspiring others to achieve it….Management involves implementing strategies and turning visions into accomplishments by motivating, organising, and guiding the efforts of other people”.

So with this in mind, top executives set the vision and strategy, the next level is responsible for implementing these. Note the reference in the quote above, to “guiding the efforts of others” in the management role – this is when we use the everyday word ‘leadership’ to encapsulate this aspect of the managerial role.

I personally think that much of the popular literature comparing the two roles continue to support the ‘sexiness’ of leadership and the ‘banality’ of management. One British Columbian hospitality HR site even goes so far as to state: “The main difference between leaders and managers is that leaders have people follow them while managers have people who work for them.” This, I imagine, is designed to support the need for leadership within managerial roles in the hospitality industry, but to me is just another example of the all too pervasive, almost ‘anti-management’ lines out there.

I really like Dr Robert A Cooke’s line in the Leadership/Impact® feedback report: “Managers cannot be considered to ‘lead’ (ie guide or direct) unless they in some way transform, shape, or influence the organisational context of members and the ways in which they approach their work and interact with one another”.

Most managers are managers – that’s why their title more often than not is ‘Something or other Manager’. Of course they need to lead their people, assuming they do ‘manage’ people, but we mustn’t lose sight of the managerial aspects of their roles.

That’s why the Leadership/Impact® tool measures purely leadership ‘strategies’ – Envisioning, Role Modelling, Stimulating Thinking, Creating a Setting etc, whilst the Management/Impact® tool measures managerial practices like Managing Goals, Managing Results, Managing Change, Managing Teams, Managing Resources etc. Top executives…. Are there words missing from here?

A great way to think about the difference is found in Katz and Kahn’s (1978) work on the role of leadership influence. They propose that leadership is distinguished from management by the degree of influence leaders have over the organisation. Think about this – a senior executive can have influence over people that they never even meet. One word from the CEO can influence the lives of everyone in the organisation, whereas managers tend to influence primarily those they directly lead.

That’s why we recommend the Leadership/Impact® instrument for top executives and possibly senior executives in large organisations, whereas we recommend the Management/Impact® instrument for the rest. The latter does not ignore leadership as it is inherent on all of the managerial practices measured.


Bennis, W G. On becoming a leader. Reading MA: Addison-Wesley, 1989. Cited in Kreitner, R. and Kinicki, A. Organizational Behaviour. 6th ed. McGraw Hill 2004 p 596.

Cooke, Robert A., Leadership/Impact feedback report. Human Synergistics International. 2013.

Katz, D. and Kahn, R. L. The Social Psychology of Organizations. New York: Wiley. 1978.

Kotter, J. A force for change: How leadership differs from management. New York Free Press 1990


Mintzberg, H. Rounding Out the Manager’s Job. MIT Sloan Management Review, vol 36, no 1. 1994.


Change Solutions

Tools & Simulations

Our suite of diagnostic tools can help you measure and develop every level of your organisation.

About Us

The Circumplex

Our ground-breaking measurement model has been used by millions of clients around the world.

Want to achieve genuine change & unlock growth within your business?

Contact Human Synergistics to find out how we can help you today!
Scroll to Top