What is Leadership?

I was recently asked, “What is leadership and is it the same thing as management?

I think most of people are confused to the difference between leadership and management because good management is foundational to good leadership. So much so that leadership and management often look to be one in the same.

To contrast the differences I chose to focus on just 5 of the many attributes that make up the DNA of a great leader.


As a manager I ask “How do I get things done?” As a leader I ask “Where do I want to go?” That is the the most fundamental difference between management and leadership; the how vs. the why. As leaders, we need to know where we want to be and why we want to be there.


The great leaders I have worked with are often good managers. However, it doesn’t automatically make someone a good leader because they are a great manager. I see the role of management as acting with ritual predictability. A see a good leadership as knowing when to challenge the rules and ignore rituals, and as importantly, when not to. Leaders place the task of “what need to be done” before the “how it is done” while always remembering the importance of “why it is done”.


A good leader will walk unknown paths with purpose and tenacity. How we face challenges and deal with uncertainty is at the heart of true leadership. Leadership requires courage and courage is the highest form of leadership, no matter where it is exercised.


We are facing an increasingly complex and interconnected world. Cutting through complexity, reducing questions down to the essentials and providing orientation is how leaders establish and communicate purpose. I believe that an unrelenting quest for simplicity is key. It is though plain and simple language that people find purpose and a reason to follow.


Technology has speed up the pace of decision making. Because the speed of life has increased for everyone, as leaders, we needs to be careful to not replace sound decisions with just quick decisions.

The story of Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to the Antarctic on the ship The Endurance is one of my all time favorite inspirational stories.