I often get asked who the exemplar executives are that excel at both the Leadership and Management dimensions. Frankly, it is a rare breed and so far only a few in my own three year exploration of the subject – Red Auerbach, Richard Noble, Edmund Hillary – have really distinguished themselves with exceptional capabilities on both sides of the spectrum. I would add to this list ‘portfolio’ UK executive Allan Leighton.

I first heard Leighton’s no-nonsense perspectives on Management at Leaders In London a few years back so I was eager to dive into his examination on the subject in his book ‘On Leadership: Practical Wisdom from the People Who Know’.

The book is chock full of his own down to earth fundamentals melded with the insights of a distinctive range of British business luminaries. In fact, he offers his own aphorism on the balance of Leadership and Management (which I will add as distinction #17).

“Leaders set the context – the strategy – but managers execute.”


In fact, Leighton has already made the list with another of his distinctions featured in this past year’s Leaders in London event.

“Leaders create the Will, Managers maintain the Rhythm.”


Unlike Warren Bennis who falls into the common trap of downplaying ‘Management’, Leighton extols it in his book on ‘Leadership’…


“We don’t need millions of leaders trying to work out whether we’re doing the right thing, but we definitely need a large number of very, very good managers. It’s the way to make a company stand out and to ensure that you satisfy your customers better than anyone else. Any company that wants to get ahead has to differentiate itself from the competition by getting better managers than anyone else. The problem is that while leaders tend to get all the attention, the managers don’t.”

Leighton is perhaps the most prominent British executive demonstrating doing the right things right.