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What is leadership?

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A definition of leadership and an explanation of what makes it different from management.

Management and leadership are often talked about in the same breath. To be an effective leader, you need to know the difference and understand the special demands of leadership.

Is leadership different from management?

There has been a long-running debate about this. 

Most experts would say: Yes, but there is considerable overlap between the two, and an organisation needs both. Inspiring leaders must be balanced by someone with management skills who can convert the vision into action; and in today’s environment of constant change, an efficient manager may only mark time without someone who can raise people’s sights.

The features of each can be compared like this:


Management      Leadership
Planning    Vision
Systems  Innovation
Improving today   Shaping tomorrow
Organising the present  Creating the future
Risk averse  Risk taker
Doing                                                      Being
Head     Heart
Controls       Liberates
Efficiency Personal character

What does this tell us about the demands of a leadership in a non profit organisation? In a large charity, the chief executive often focuses on leadership, with his/her deputy as the key manager (sometimes called chief operating officer). In a small charity you don’t have that luxury - the director may be dealing with strategy in the morning and reorganising the files in the afternoon!

So a leader needs to juggle different demands. The most important thing is to make enough space to look to the future and not get bogged down in today's detail.

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Page last edited Jul 20, 2017

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