Retreating to Management Alone

Retreating to Management Alone

Over the past few years my colleague Marvin Washington has invited me to engage with a number of strong organizations in the Canadian province of Alberta. Through the University of Alberta, these organizations have embarked upon multi-level programs of leadership development and demonstration projects. Among them are the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Alberta Energy Regulator, and the Alberta Health Services. Each is undergoing transformative change. After working with these leaders over some time, a common theme has emerged, one not uncharacteristic of leaders around the world.

Most organizational leaders enter a new role or challenge with great expectations to make meaningful contribution. However, when bombarded with the growing complexity and accelerating change of the workplace, there is a tendency to retreat to management…foregoing the required leadership.   You can imagine the changes and increasing demands of law enforcement, energy standard setters, and healthcare professionals. The day-to-day becomes overwhelming and management skills are certainly required. But without the leadership contribution, no headway will be made and the future vision will not be achieved.

The transformation leadership model points to the essential leadership skills needed in addition to their polar opposite management skills. The one-point lesson follows:

Transformational Leadership








Lesson: Transformational Leadership

 Leadership and management are valuable skill sets, and both are needed in an organization. But they are different in nature. Management is concerned with stewardship of systems and subsystems, in other words, bringing order to chaos and providing structure. A standardization focus is prevalent. Reduction of variation and system optimization are targets. Management is of the mind.

Leadership adds the aspect of change, creating the future for the organization. Leadership is of the spirit. A keen sense of self and high interpersonal skills are required to effectively lead. Consciousness of self, others and the emerging organizational value exchange are at the center of the leader’s strength.

Four sets of polarities exist within the model, each offering a pair of contrasting skills. The challenge is for a successful manager to embrace all four of the polarities. Thus, an effective leader will display managerial skill…and so much more.









So, to my friends in Alberta and around the world, don’t retreat to management alone when the whole of the job reveals itself. Yes, the management skills you have are in demand, but without your leadership contributions the organization will suffer.