Another one of those serendipitous moments on Twitter yesterday… a former colleague from Reuters, Charles Jennings, tweeted:

In my glibly sarcastic way, I responded that it was curious that people never talk about “matrix leadership”.

Given a few hours now to reflect on that short conversation, I’ve really come to think that it’s remarkably strange that we talk about these two disciplines in these ways. The distinction between the two is subject to long debate, but in my mind management is about control, and leadership about direction and inspiration.

Leadership is something that we can all display and do. Management responsibility, however, is bestowed upon us, usually with quite specific constraints and boundaries in the corporate world.

As Charles’ quote so elegantly puts it, matrix management  is doomed to screwing people up. Control exerted in multiple, often cross divisional and contradictory directions is like some sort of psychological torture.

Actually, for these matrices to work, without recourse to rank or structure, it’s leadership that really makes the difference. For me, that’s a lightbulb moment.

4 thoughts on “Matrix leadership

      1. I think that is the case Matt and it appears that some business schools are reinforcing this with the onus being on teaching people to manage ‘their’ staff. From tracking devices to email trawls it is a sad state of affairs! But one that thankfully will have to change! I read somewhere the other day that something like 80% of start ups don’t have a business plan at inception. I wonder where that will lead the strategic planning bods!

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