What is leadership?

The following Practice Management practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • What is leadership?
  • The difference between management and leadership
  • Common leadership theories
  • Action centred leadership
  • Situational leadership
  • Personal or positional leadership?

What is leadership?

It is pretty much impossible to create a concise, universally-accepted definition of leadership. Most of us have seen examples of good and bad leadership, but when it comes to pinning down just what it is that makes a good leader, we usually end up with a list of behaviours rather than a simple definition. In this Practice Note we attempt to get under the skin of leadership, understand how it differs from management and identify the key behaviours of great leaders.

The difference between management and leadership

There has probably been more time spent trying to define the difference between a leader and a manager than almost any other management topic. Often these definitions glorify the role of the leader at the expense of the role of the manager, which is unfortunate as an organisation requires skilled practitioners in both areas in order to remain successful.

One analogy to clarify the difference between the manager and the leader is this: a manager is the driver of the car trying to get from A to B and the leader is the person sat alongside them with the map giving directions. The leader can see where the car needs to be going, and what route they would like to take, but it is the manager that drives the car and makes it happen.

Typically a list of the

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