Leadership Versus Management in Change Management – Does it Matter and If So Why?


Are you a leader or a manager – is there a difference? Do you know what it is? Does it matter?

Whilst there is much emphasis on the management aspect of change, much of the underlying cause of the catastrophic 70% failure rate in ALL change initiatives is directly attributable to a lack of leadership….

To see whether you are a Leader or a Manager, answer True or False to the following statements:

1. I think more about immediate results than I do about mentoring others
2. It’s nice to know about people’s long-term goals, but not necessary to do the job
3. The greatest pleasure in my job comes from making the work process more effective
4. I spend more of my time and attention on the weaker performers than I do on my top performers, who basically take care of themselves
5. It’s my job to know everything that goes on in my area

If you answered mainly “True” to the questions above, then you’ve given a Manager’s response. If you’ve answered mainly “False”, then you’ve given a Leader’s response.

“Those who have changed the universe have never done it by changing officials, but always by inspiring the people.” [Napoleon Boneparte]

I define leadership as someone whom others will follow.

In my experience:

– Leaders drive change where as managers deliver it
– Leaders define culture whereas managers are defined by it
– Leaders innovate whereas managers administrate

Whilst the very definitions change management and programme management emphasise the management aspect [and of course this is important] much of the cause of the 70% failure rate in change initiatives is directly attributable to a lack of leadership…

A leadership that sees the bigger picture – that ensures that people will follow – and the discipline of a programme management approach provides the tools and processes to facilitate that.

Any change initiative that is more than incremental change [i.e. it’s a step change] needs to led – and it needs to be seen to be led.

Identifying and enlisting the support of leaders [as well as the managers] within your organisation is key to successful culture change and change management.

A balanced perspective

Here is an interesting and balanced perspective on the differing but complementary roles and skills of leaders and managers: characteristics of leadership and management:

“Leadership and Management are two distinct but complementary systems… While managers promote stability, leaders press for change. Only organisations that can embrace both sides of that contradiction can thrive in turbulent times.” [John Kotter]

My own personal view and experience of leadership is that:

– Leaders are born not made
– You know if you are a leader
– Others know if you are a leader

And my own personal leadership credo is that “it is better to be decisively wrong that indecisively right”!

So in the context of change the management aspect is important – but in my experience an underlying cause of the catastrophic failure rate in change initiatives is directly attributable to a lack of leadership.

And we are talking about a leadership that knows how to apply
(a) the inspirational motivation and leadership insights – that are appropriate to your company, AND
(b) the supporting programme management based processes – to ensure that you avoid that catastrophic failure rate that affects ALL business change initiatives.

Leave a Reply