Oxymoron Alert: “Leadership Training”



The terms “leadership” and “management” often seem to get used interchangeably. Which is a problem, since they are two very different things.

Leaders should be defining a vision, setting an appropriate strategy and inspiring people to get involved.

Managers should be coordinating the people, processes and resources required to execute on the strategy and realize the vision.

It’s extraordinarily difficult to do both well at the same time. True, leaders within small or rapidly growing organizations need to manage as well for a time. But the more senior you are and the larger the organization you are in, the more you should be leading and the less you should be managing.

Nevertheless, the unfortunate reality is that many people in leadership positions got there because of their proficiency in management. Thus, many of them try to continue managing when they should be leading, and fail to lead because all they have ever done is manage.

Then things really go from bad to worse: They read the latest fad book on “humble leadership” or get sent on “leadership training” – concepts which are as oxymoronic as they are ineffective. You can’t train to be a leader, you become one, usually by having the courage to do unpopular things in difficult circumstances. Humility isn't helpful when that is your remit.

It's not that being a leader is better than being a manager, or vice versa. They just demand very different skillsets.

My advice is to decide which you are or aspire to be and become the best at it.


Copyright Hamish Mackenzie, 2021. All rights reserved.