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Commanding or Leading?

I was running a leadership seminar the other day and the discussion veered towards the differences between command, leadership and management. One of the group asked me a question: Is it possible to command without leading and is it possible to be a manager without either commanding or leading?

An interesting question but one that is music to the ears of an academic because…there is no right or wrong answer. I am sure that you have all worked for people who have been in command or in charge or been the ‘boss’ but who have seldom shown any real leadership; after all, why should they?

They have been put in charge and it’s up to you to do their bidding. On the other hand how many times have we met a truly inspirational leaders who turns out not to be able to look after people from a management point of view? I certainly have; one particular boss that I worked for led from the front but unfortunately the organisation was let down by his lack of general management skills. Leadership is basically about dealing with people. In that case ask yourself how much leadership is practised by those at the top of an organisation?

They are busy dealing with strategy and setting goals but they may not devote enough time to interact with the workforce, even at senior or middle management level. Look at some of the better leaders that have been written about – they have generally been able to strike a good balance of command, leadership and management and even when they have reached the higher echelons of their organisation have still had empathy with and remembered to take a genuine interest in those in more junior positions.

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