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The re‐branding of management development as leadership development – and its dangers

W. David Rees (Independent Consultant and former Principal Lecturer at the University of Westminster, London, UK)
Christine Porter (Head of the Human Resource Management Department at The Westminster Business School, University of Westminster, UK.)

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 11 July 2008




The purpose of this paper is to examine the re‐branding of much management education and development under the heading of leadership and to identify the dangers this may bring particularly if it results in key management skills being neglected.


The authors use their extensive background in management education and development in the UK and abroad to consider the implications of the increasing emphasis on leadership as opposed to management education and development. Recent trends are identified as is both the distinction between and overlap between the terms leadership and management. Relevant literature is examined and the potential dangers of the re‐branding process identified


Increasing use is being made of the term leadership. Whilst there is considerable overlap between the concepts of leadership and management, the market appeal to providers and users of qualification and short course programmes implies that leadership is a higher level of organisational activity than management. This may be an unrealistic view of organisational activity and ignores the concept of strategic management. However, it may create a market pressure for people to aspire to be leaders rather than managers. Four specific potential dangers are identified. These are the lack of emphasis on the need to match people to situations, a failure to distinguish between process and task leadership, the general lack of obvious pathways for people to become leaders rather than managers and neglect of the development of critical managerial skills. Whilst much useful work may take place under the title leadership there is also the overall danger that some of the activity is superficial and even counter‐productive.


The paper is a timely and necessary counter‐balance to the bandwagon effect of the use of the term “leadership” in the generic area of management education and development. It encourages readers to examine carefully what is covered under leadership activities and the extent to which these meet real as opposed to status needs.



Rees, W.D. and Porter, C. (2008), "The re‐branding of management development as leadership development – and its dangers", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 40 No. 5, pp. 242-247.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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