Is management synonymous with leadership?

women in leadership CSC Blogs

When we hear the term “leader,” our minds instantly turn to our managers, CEOs, executives and other company higher ups. But they’re not the only leaders in our lives. What about our mothers/fathers, guardians, grandparents … friends?

The concept of “leadership” usually indicates someone with power and control over another person, and it’s often attached to the workplace. But is it always the case that the person in charge is a leader?

When I think of a leader, I think of someone who is approachable, accepting and supportive. Yet I’m surely not the only one who has found herself having to answer to a difficult line manager about why I haven’t been able to complete a task, even when failure is completely out of my control.

I’m sure you’ve been here: Head on the desk, mind running over and over about how you’re going to explain the mishap, what you’re going to say, what you’re going to do, DAYS before you even have to go for that dreaded “I haven’t been able to complete that” meeting.

I certainly have had managers like that in my career, people I dreaded speaking to and avoided at all costs. Worse, those people seem skilled at making employees feel 2-foot-tall, despite you working to the best of your ability. And they may refuse to train or mentor you to do better because (or so you feel) you just aren’t worth it.

For me, this type of manager should not automatically be called a leader. Instead, I believe, leadership is found in the heart of a person.

We all have the potential to be leaders, whether we are “built” for it or not. And though leadership is strongly associated with success, real leaders — like real people — don’t always succeed. Better yet, they know how to recover from failure and help their employees do the same.

In my opinion, it is okay to not be a leader, whether that is because it doesn’t suit you or you prefer to let someone else take charge (I’m sure it’s happened to the best of us when there’s been a nasty and confusing case of “too many chefs in the kitchen.”)

But we should recognize that leadership isn’t always found in management, and if you happen to be in a situation like one I described above, you may need to look outside the workplace for someone who can help you grow as a person and professional.

Sometimes leaders are hidden in your friends, family, and maybe even in you (yes, you, even if you’re still at the bottom of the job hierarchy). Think about that one friend in the group who always pulls you through the disastrous situation of missing the last bus, the person who always seems to have a master plan hidden in her pocket. Those might be the secret leaders in your world.

While leaders often reach the point of management in companies, take a moment to look for the “little leaders” all around you, waiting in the wings — whether that’s you, a colleague or a friend.

They haven’t earned their title — yet — but one day they might. They might not  be experienced enough — yet — but one day they will be. And by partnering with and “following” these other leaders now, you can grow in your personal and professional life.

And when that true “leader” is your boss, you’ll be much happier for it.


Finding success as a woman in FinTech

To be or not to be … a woman in IT


  1. Love the article Cat, we have such issues as you described in our workplace. Luckily we have a supportive team and various “leaders” who excel at one task or another who can assist and encourage other team members to succeed.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think this raises some valuable points 🙂 true leaders encourage you to grow and don’t see failures, but recognise opportunities to learn and find new ways to complete tasks.
    I agree it’s particularly important to recognise the value of the leaders in your life regardless of gender, ability or status – and appreciate the good qualities they inspire within the team and within yourself. Wether it be in your career or personal life.
    This provoked some good thoughts and reflections upon those I consider to be leaders in my own life.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. geosupergirl says:

    Cat this is beautiful and made me smile lots. Will be sharing with my networks. Our Empowering Future Leaders will also love this. Amazing work for your firstay blog, looking forward to what comes next.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Lisa Braun says:

    I really enjoyed this. I think we can all lead, but it’s important to know we can’t all lead all the time. It’s important to know when to lead and when to follow. I agree that we can find leaders everywhere, and I’ve been lucky to have had some very good women leaders as bosses (am thinking early in my career and now). Thank you for posting; am looking forward to more in this space.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. geosupergirl says:

    Lisa perhaps a follow up blog for Cat when to lead and when to follow


    • Cathartic says:

      Good idea, I have begun writing my second blog but this can be my third and used as a transition into being more women focused. Thanks for the idea!

      Liked by 1 person


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