The Blog

Most companies suffer from a surfeit of leadership. What they need is management to ensure things get done. I mentioned this when talking to a group of senior managers recently who are accountable for the work of 2500 employees and received quite an energetic reaction.

I explained that this is because most managers have been told to lead their division or team. But to start with, most managers cannot define the difference between leadership and management. Leadership work is creating the company’s/department’s vision for the way ahead and engaging and enlisting their employees to help build this future. Management is the design and management of their employees’ environment to maximize their capability  to do their best work. Managers need to do both.

Leaders often don’t roll up their sleeves to do the slogging work of management.  They make a lot of noise but nothing comes down the stairs!  Nothing significant really changes to their employees immediate environment to enable employees to work more effectively and efficiently within the system they find themselves.

I believe that leaders who only focus on inspiring great work are not as successful as those managers who focus their efforts on helping their employees achieve the great work that they want to accomplish. Senior executives need to sharpen their senses to identify what prevents employees doing their best work. They need to be experts as removing these barriers.

Most of us arrive at work eager to contribute, create and be part of something successful. If our senior managers are effective, we will be able to continue with that enthusiasm and get our work done. Yes, I hold the top of house accountable for everything an employee experiences. For example, it is senior managers’ accountability to ensure that every employee is managed by a manager who will treat them with respect and can teach them and enhance their skills and confidence. To do this is not an act of leadership – it is an act of management. To make this happen will require the installation of company-wide assessment systems, frequent and truthful review of managers’ performance. To ensure fairness, all employees require clear goals and measurements against which they can be assessed. Removal from role will happen quite frequently at the onset of this process. These are the nitty-gritty tough aspects of management to get things done right in the company!

Leadership is often not the answer to solving the pain in a company. It requires management.


Executive assistants are the unsung heroes of the corporate workplace. Undervalued and all too often ignored, their contributions to the success of the people they support is incalculable – and yet usually forgotten.

How gratifying, then, it is to hear someone say, “I am where I am today because of my executive assistant.” That person recognizes the organizational efforts of their EA.

Over the years the titles may have changed – Girl Friday, secretary; administrative assistant; executive assistant; corporate secretary; office manager; administrative coordinator; even chief of staff – but the essential duties remain the same. The role exists to serve and support in every way possible senior business leaders. Without a capable person occupying this role, the executive will not be as organized and effective as they could be.

This relationship is exceptional and when successful, immensely strong and focused. The CEO has their own goals they want to achieve – and the EA’s all-consuming goal is to help accomplish them. The executive assistant values work and she values the work of her boss. Conversely, he knows that without her, he may not be able to reach his goals. There is no doubt that he values her work.

Nick Forrest