Even a cursory review of leadership literature and what purports to be expert opinion forces a simple conclusion. There is low consensus around a single definition of leadership and similarly low agreement about the roles and responsibilities of leaders. Accept the observation as cautionary. The propositions here represent one perspective among many. Test their validity against your experience and expertise as you evaluate their merit and utility.

Proposition one:

“Organizations continuously transition from the present state to a future state. The leader’s role is to affect the transition so as to actualize the desired future state by reducing and eliminating the disparity between the present and future states, without redefining or compromising the future state.”

Action corollary 1: Manage for today, lead for tomorrow.

Action corollary 2: Focus management on what is, leadership on what aught to be.

Action corollary 3: Management keeps the organization on the road and moving forward; leadership assures the road taken leads to what aught to be.

Action corollary 4: Managers typically determine Plan “A” will not work as expected; leaders expeditiously move the organization to plan “B.”

Proposition two:

“The leadership of an organization is always an exact fit with the current path of the organization.”

Action corollary 1: Managers maintain the status quo and control whatever threatens or may threaten the current state; leaders seek Change and Transformation in the interest of an envisioned future state.

Action corollary 2: Managers preserve; leaders innovate.

Proposition three:

“Organizations trend toward stabilization.”

Corollary 1: Management and leadership are inherently opposing forces within an organization.


Conclusion 1: Management represents organizational stability and permanence. Leadership represents instability and impermanence.

Conclusion 2: Change and transformation threaten the status quo and intensify organizational inertia.

Conclusion 3: The effectiveness of leadership is inversely related to the degree of inertia intensification caused by leadership.


An intermediary between management and leadership is needed. Think of it as a modulating function. This function serves to mitigate the threat coming from leadership on the one hand and weaken the inertia coming from management on the other. Managers come to see benefit in change and transformation, and leaders moderate their enthusiasm and insistence. The touch point occurs when inertia reduces enough to permit change, and leadership exuberance and insistence are restrained enough to avoid increasing resistance and further management opposition.

This modulating function could be the responsibility of an individual; but in all but the smallest organizations, it is likely best assumed by a small modulation team. Just as organizational leadership and organizational management each has recognized position, status, and authority, so must the modulation team have equivalent position, status, and authority. The modulation team succeeds when the momentum for change slightly exceeds the level of inertia required to maintain the status quo, with neither side (management nor leadership) reverting to more structured or intensified strategies to support their interests. The tension is present and continuous but remains within the comfort zones of both.