Leadership vs Management: Tale of the tape

After seeing Scott Berkun’s post on innovation vs usability in numbers, I decided to do my own search on Google’s Ngram Viewer and compared four words: innovation, creativity, management and leadership. Graph below or click through to page:


As you can see, in the last decade ‘management’ (green) is becoming less relevant in books. Incredibly so is ‘leadership’ (blue). What’s more interesting still now with hindsight is how from 1960 – 2000, mentions of management went to the stratosphere while leadership stayed more or less the same.

Why such discrepancy?

My take is that part of our education system (as well as workplace) is focused on creating managers. The whole industrial revolution was the major cause in this shift. My parents drilled this into my head also and I know a lot of my former classmates desired to become managers and still do. Managers are ‘the boss’ they say. That’s a flawed logic (fixed mindset) in the context of innovation because managers are like the nuts that keep the tires from spinning off the car while it’s moving, they keep the wheels moving. Steady as she goes. Whereas in the creative pursuit the tires will change a lot more than planned for. Hell, the nuts, bolts and structures will change too.

This is what’s taught in most schools: strive to become a manager because you’ll be the one to tell others what to do. Get an MBA from a reputable business school of mba in canada and be the boss.

I guess the economic reset put that notion into submission.

More leadership, less management

Have you ever counted how many leaders vs managers are in organizations? Lots. That needs to change to a healthy balance. My argument is not that management shouldn’t exist, it’s just how it’s perceived that is the problem. By creating more management (structure) we’re alienating others and our own freedom to create. We need more leaders not more managers.


P.S. Just noticed that since I’ve been writing this blog I’ve never created a ‘management’ category for posts. Will keep it that way. That tells you something Winking smile

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Also published on Medium.

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