Category: profession


The two words leadership and management are probably the most ambiguous words in the lexicon of the business world. I believe defining these two words are at the heart of the meaning of the work, and success, of a chief executive officer.

As a CEO or senior executive you have to choose your words carefully. It is your job to effectively “launch a thousand ships” and, in doing so, know when to lead and when to manage. I often ask my clients to define the meaning of Leadership and Management.  The answers are hardly ever consistent. And my clients have strong differing views!  These need to be debated in order to establish a collective understanding and agreement of “how we will manage our company”.

My definition of leadership is about pointing the way; whereas management is how you get to your destination.  To use a football analogy, leadership is getting the team fired up before kick-off. Management is selecting the plays and getting the players to execute them in order to move the chains down the field 10 yards at a time. It requires everybody to understand what is being communicated.

The rules of language apply to all levels of management.  As a chief executive you need  choose a philosophy of management, a language, principles, processes, and structure.  You must then practice them for the rest of your professional career, developing an expertise and an ability to lead and manage in a deeply effective way.

I call this the Craft of CEO Management.

CEO Management is the lifelong pursuit of mastery in an executive’s chosen profession.  Part of achieving excellence in any profession is the requirement to be precise in the meaning of the language of the profession so that everybody understands what is being said.  The profession of management is profoundly poor at this.  It is beset with jargon, there is no universal agreement on the definition and collective meaning of words or language, and is laxly applied.  The existing vocabulary is continually being undermined by jargon.

We’ve all seen what happens when this happens on the football field – when team members misunderstand what the play call is or what route they are running!

CEO Management requires you to design and manage your company environment to maximize your employees’ understanding of their work,  their effectiveness and efficiency. This framework enables them to do their best work. The larger the group of employees, the greater the payback is for doing this. However, the larger the number of employees, the larger the risk of failure if there a clear framework does not exist.

Make the way you choose to manage uniform throughout your company. Give your both your managers and their staff the gift of consistency and clarity of language, principles and process.  They will respond with increased effectiveness and productivity.

To learn the language of effective CEOs, check out How Dare You Manage? Seven Principles For Closing The CEO Gap.

Nick Forrest

Recently I attended a business dinner with a group of senior executives and the subject of what is the difference between “leadership” and “management” came up. Despite an energized discussion, by the end of the evening we had not arrived at a common agreement.

To me, this demonstrates that the profession of management is in trouble. Actually, management is not even seen as a profession… and it should be!

Look around you where you are sitting reading this blog. Nothing in the room you are in was not touched at some point in its creation by a manager. The chair in which you sit, the building that shelters you, the coffee you drink – all came about thanks to processes and people being managed. Our society depends on managers, and management is the pre-eminent profession of the 21st century. Yet it has no coherent unified body of practices, discipline and processes, unlike, for example, the accounting and legal professions.

Why is that?

The sad truth is that anybody can become a manager, and there are few consequences if one mucks it up. Managerial philosophy, values and practices are inconsistent. Oh unfortunate employees!

What we need to do is to treat management as a craft. What’s a craft? A craft is the lifelong pursuit of mastery of a body of knowledge. Practitioners of the craft of management would be expected to follow common principles, rules and standards of engagement.

If all this was in place, my colleagues and I would not have spent the evening arguing about the differences in meaning between leadership and management. We would know. Our profession would be defined by precedent and practice.

I believe companies would be very much better managed and employees would be more productive if management would be recognized as a profession. Everyone would benefit from increased respect, consistency, and clarity of expectations. And their managers would be held accountable to practice their craft in a clearly delineated manner to set standards.

Nick Forrest

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