We all need leadership at work.  We need that person to look up to who is “in-charge”.  The one who coordinates the work, making sure everything gets done.

A lot of the time people confuse two separate things.  They mix up management and leadership.

From dictionary.com:
     management: the act or manner of managing; handling, direction, or control.

     leadership: the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group:

Quite often the manager and the leader are the same person.  But, often, they can be different people.



Leadership is often confused with management.  A good leader does not need to be a manager.  The two are different, but complementary, areas.

Leadership can often be invisible.  It displays itself in many different ways:

  • small compliments that encourage people to give more
  • little quiet suggestions that smooth over difficult situations
  • giving hints and tips in quiet moments
  • questions that encourage thinking about a situation.

The person doing this may not be obvious.  They may be in the background enabling the rest of a team to perform higher than they would otherwise do.

The person is not directing.  They are not managing.  The key action from them is to enable others to perform and shine.


Is Leadership A Good Thing?

Leadership is one of the best ways to get a team to function.  Again I stress leadership and management are different things.

We’ve all worked with a manager who has excellent plans.  They know the risks.  They’ve assessed the potential issues and have mitigation plans for them.  Such a manager is at the top of their game.

The problem, though, is they can not lead.  They are unable to inspire their team.

Their project starts.  The manager starts wondering why things are not going to schedule.  The manager holds a team meeting, explaining the plan again.  Un-inspired the team heads off and the work falls further behind.

With a leader coming in this picture is different.  The leader takes then plans and identifies the right people to do each part.  By working with the team the leader is able to ensure every team members knows the value they bring.  The leader brings out the best in everyone.  They assign team members pieces of work to challenge and grow their skills.  The project, instead of falling behind, proceeds according to the plan and often can be ahead of plan.

By engaging a team under a solid leader business grows and results come in.


Why Not Have Multiple Leaders?

If having a leader is a good thing, why not throw more leaders into the pot?

A lot of schools are now pushing students through Leadership programs.  The idea is that everyone becomes a leader.  But that means that there is no-one learns how to follow!

This sounds good.  In practice, it is not.

If everyone is trying to lead, then who is actually doing the work?

Every leader is giving team members different instructions.  Which instructions should the team member follow?

In every situation there should be only one leader.  There should be one person guiding the progress and the work.  This ensures there is clarity and consistency in the work.

Large projects often have many streams of work.  You will have different people leading the different streams.  They are responsible for coordinating the work going on in their stream.  These people are then brought together under a project leader.  The project leader co-ordinates the work of the stream leaders.

The project leader helps smooth out the interactions.  They are the person who balances the demands for resources across the streams.  This way there is one person leading the project.  There is one person leading each of the streams.  Together they bring unified leadership team to the project.


Can Leadership Go Wrong?

Leadership, can, and does, go wrong.


Too many people trying to lead

As above, if there are too many people trying to lead, and not enough people doing the work, things go wrong.

You need to ensure there are clear boundaries for each person, and a way to handle the clash when things go wrong.


There are some leaders who are stubborn and set in their ways

Work was always done in a certain way and they are not open to change.  When someone new comes in, with fresh ideas, this can lead to clashes over the ways of doing the work.

You need to help the team see that there are many ways to get the same result.  Help them to find a solution that takes the best of both old and new ways of doing things.


When a new leader starts work things may not go as planned at the start

The new leader needs time to learn about the team.  They need to identify the personalities of team members.  They need to identify the teams strengths and weaknesses.  This will take a bit of time.

When this happens you need to allow the new leader the time they need.  Let them get to know their team.  This will allow them to bring out the excellence in each team member.



Leadership and management are two complementary skills.  It is possible to be good at both.  It is also possible to be strong in one area and not another.

A good leader is often invisible.  They are in the background quietly guiding their team.  Their skill is in bringing out the best in each team member.  They challenge the team.  This allows each team member to improve their skills, knowledge and confidence.

A good team needs one leader.  Having multiple people trying to lead will bring confusion and conflict.  One leader with a clear vision of the work and the team allows them to deliver results.  This will push your business forward, leading to the results you deserve.


If you need someone to help with finding the leaders in your business then email Garry at garry@nextactions.com.au or visit us on the web at nextactions.com.au


For information on how Next Actions can help your business, please complete the enquiry form below.

Also published on Medium.