• York MCN

The difference between management and leadership.

Updated: Aug 31, 2021

Management and leadership are often confused, and people can be expected to do both at once - or they may even be expected to be managers, but be employed as leaders.

Managers and Leaders operate in the same ‘forest’, but are responsible for entirely different outcomes.


Expanding the forest metaphor, the manager is responsible for making things happen - such as cutting trees, managing those working in the forest, ensuring everything is working effectively and smoothly. They’re also responsible for ensuring thatlogistics and technical provisions are suitable for making the forestry operations flow as smoothly as possible.

The manager is accountable for making, contributing and supporting the cultural foundations which are established by effective strategic leadership. More on effective strategic leadership in a moment.


The leaders’ responsibility is to make sure that there is a strong and clear direction for the evolution of the culture in the forest, and how everything else relates to it. Rather than being an expert at cutting down trees, the leaders’ role is to put in place the measures to ensure there is still a forest there in 50 years’ time, with a rich biodiversity, supporting life and many different species beyond just the crop of trees which might be harvested.

Supporting a whole forest is a delicate balance; leadership is taking care of the whole ecosystem, and sometimes unforeseen things happen like fires and droughts and all of it has to be navigated. The leaders’ role is to keep everybody together during times like this.

They communicate the clear direction for future sustainability of the forest ecosystem to everybody. Values are the guiding foundations which the leadership can rely on to help communicate clearly to everybody who is part of working in the forest.

This kind of “big picture” thinking is essential to have the long view.

Linking organisational leadership and personal leadership.

It doesn’t have always has to be the same person leading - in fact, making leadership all about one person’s guidance is a pitfall - and this is why values are important: clear values help everybody participate in leading on a strategic level.

Just as the forest is a big ecosystem requiring clear leadership on the scale of that large forest-wide ecosystem, there are lots of smaller habitats and ecosystems within the forest itself - for example the river running through, the borders of the forest where the farmland meets the trees, the clearings in the middle of the forest where the bluebells grow. All these are individual smaller ecosystems within one larger forest, and they each need their own kind of individual leadership to help them thrive.

This is where individual leadership or personal leadership comes into focus - when we are guiding the direction of things which happen because of our own behaviour we are feeding in to a wider ecosystem of outcomes. We are using our personal leadership all the time to make change- whether we realise it or not.

How does culture, values and leadership relate to the communities and cities we live in?

In complex social ecosystems such as cities and communities - people are often called upon to be both a manager and a leader at different times, in response to different needs. This is understandable, and we have a lot of capacity from many great individuals in the city who can do both these roles.

One of the key successes of this Cultural Values project would be if we can harness the learning, intelligence and wisdom of absolutely everyone, distilling it into a strong set of values.

By recognising and recording people’s personal values now we will create the conditions for them to be a realistic option and echoed when leadership decisions are being made later on.

This would be a way to enable greater participation in finding the path forwards into the future, which everyone could have their voice included in.

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