Why good managers do not always make good leaders

Leadership and management are two very different capabilities, says author and leadership expert Mark Oliver

Why good managers do not always make good leaders

The simple answer is that leadership and management are two very different capabilities which are independent of each other.

Leadership and management are sometimes used to describe the same behaviours but the origins of the words show they are different. The word “management” comes from the Latin word for hand (as does manipulation) and it is about handling things, whereas the origins of the word “leadership” are more uncertain. Some evidence suggests that it comes from the Old English (prior to the thirteenth century) word meaning a vein of ore, suggesting a streak of some value.* Some people attribute it to the Indo European derivation meaning to “cross a threshold”, implying self-sacrifice which captures the principle that leadership is altruistic. Or it may come from the Anglo Saxon word leaden meaning “cause to go with”.

This simple understanding makes it quite obvious that just because someone is good at management does not mean they are good at leadership, and vice versa. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both theory and research suggests that these two capabilities are oppositely correlated which means the better a manager is then the worse they tend to be as a leader. Practically this warns us that we can manage resources but we have to lead people, and many of our mistakes happen because we try to manage people; in other words treat them like things!

Leadership is so much more effective than management because leadership increases the motivation and engagement of employees.  This makes such a big difference in the workplace because how much employees are “engaged” (feel an emotional bond) to the organisation has been shown in many studies across industries to have a direct and significant correlation with productivity. International studies have found that employees who were fully engaged in their work, were almost 50% more productive in terms of revenue generation and three hundred per cent better at delivering value than their disengaged (disaffected) colleagues.

Fortunately for all of us management and leadership are highly trainable and so we all have the potential to increase these attributes significantly. But first we have to understand what they really are. We have found a model that helps people to understand and put into practice better leadership.

The model is the Universal Hierarchy of Motivation (UHM) and it has seven levels with a corresponding four styles of leadership and three styles of management. Most importantly it predicts that leadership is altruistic and more self-sacrificing, as indicated by the Indo-European derivation of the word. The Levels and corresponding leadership styles are shown in the table below and the higher the level the more impactful the style.


UHM Level



Leadership or Management  Approach




On others

Inspirational leadership



Coaching leadership



Leadership Gallantry



Service leadership



On own aims and desires

Management (Thought leadership)







The UHM shown with the corresponding Leadership and Management Styles


It is the ability of the leader to motivate themselves and others which is a key measure of their leadership. The UHM provides a comprehensive basis for understanding the capabilities necessary for good leadership through the leader’s and followers’ underlying motivations.


About the author

Mark Oliver is the CEO and managing director of MarkTwo Consulting and author of the new book The Seven Motivations of Life.

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