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December 14, 2020

The egg and chicken situation of leadership vs management

Well we all know when starting out as an entrepreneur or business owner, that you are the one wearing all the hats (or should we say masks #2020). You are the visionary, the creationist, the executioner, and the labourer.

Rather quickly you get to the point where you start to employ, lead, and manage others and you are soon confronted with important questions that make you go back and forth in your head: What are the critical skills needed in the business to succeed? Are you needed as a leader or a manager? Which one is equipped to boost the business sufficiently on its growth trajectory?

The manager will ensure that all available resources are used. It comes down to executing efficiently, while the leader effectively explores ideas. He thinks ahead (mostly far ahead). He directs. And he takes on risks of undiscovered terrain.

Therefore management is the art of execution and the leader sets the vision. It’s the perfect paradox.

Back in 1977 Abraham Zaleznik described the difference between managers and leaders as the conceptions they have about chaos and order:

  • Leadership, according to Zalezink, tolerates chaos. Leaders can be described as the artists of business. They are actively shaping fresh ideas to long-standing problems and must have the ability to get people excited about (and by people, meaning managers). Goodbye to charismatic leadership and hello to leaders creating sustainable systems an inspires within the business.
  • Managers, according to Zalezink, embrace order, seek stability and control, and act instinctively as problem-solvers and responders. Managers are those that will base their decisions and strategies on the interaction they had with people and ideas. A good manager is vital to implement visions or else the vision might always just stay that – a vision!

Best of both?

It’s vital for small businesses to be equipped with both skills. It is also vital that both skills pull through equally strong. Yes, you get successful managers that are good leaders and vice versa, but on the other hand it’s very likely that one of these two skillsets might get overwhelmed by the other, due to their complex nature, which can be toxic for your business.

Equally important is that you cannot seek vitality without both skillsets being present.

The skill needed to introduce the vision and the skill to execute it need not to be an egg or chicken situation, or an either-or situation. There are different ways in which you can obtain these skills and change it to an “as well as” situation, which shouldn’t be a dreaded or costly task.

Bring in an advisor as and when needed

The skillset can either be incorporated in one role (if you can onboard that manager that is a good leader, vice versa), or be complemented in a multifunctional management team, or by consulting an advisor.

Advisors are equipped with experience and skillsets ranging over industries and can provide that much needed vision for the future in an integrated way by handling the said skillsets simultaneously, independently from outside the organisation. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your trusted advisor if you are dealing with increased operational and financial complexity or if you are in need of introducing changes in your business to shape future success.

So, can one of the skillsets survive without the other? In a nutshell (or should I say eggshell) – we think not! Management and leadership are inseparably intertwined and should form that perfect synergy that enables the business to grasp opportunities and grow sustainably.


The Noble Prize-winning physicist Nile Bohr once said, “How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”

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