Leadership vs. Management: One of the World’s Top Thought Leaders on How She Learned the Difference

March 1, 2019

By Kendall Fisher(opens in new tab), executive producer at Grow Wire

Naomi Simson(opens in new tab) is an Australian entrepreneur, business leader and blogger. She founded RedBalloon, co-founded The Big Red Group and is now the “Red Shark” on "Shark Tank Australia." She’s also been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the World’s Most Influential Thought Leaders and named in The Australian Financial Review for the 100 Women of Influence awards. Needless to say, Simson has carved her path as one of the most successful leaders across the globe—likely due to the lesson she learned early in her career about the valuable difference between leading and managing.

Good leadership prioritizes people.

Simson began her career in the corporate world, working for esteemed companies like IBM, KPMG, Apple Computer Australia and Ansett Australia, where she first learned that the key to success revolves around people. Although she admits she never thought she’d part ways from her comfortable corporate journey, she eventually did just that. In 2001, Simson founded RedBalloon with a vision for a company that put people first.

Leaders can use experiences to create culture.

RedBalloon is an online experience gifting retailer, which Simson oversaw until 2011. She later co-founded Big Red Group—becoming a parent company to RedBalloon and several other businesses—with the continued mission to shift the way people experience life. In fact, Simson has incorporated this mission into her leadership style and encourages other business leaders to use the power of an experience(opens in new tab) to create a positive culture.

“I had to learn the difference between management and leadership.”

Several of Simson’s companies have been voted some of the top places to work in Australia. Of course, this couldn’t have happened if Simson didn’t learn a few lessons along the way. One of her greatest realizations came in figuring out the difference between great leaders and great managers. Simson believes she’s a great leader, but she admits, “I am not good at management.” Therefore, her job as a great leader is to hire great managers. 

“My way of creating an enterprise is to not do the management piece,” she says. “[It’s] to have great people who are managers.”

Watch all three videos above to hear more from Naomi Simson about her journey, her lessons and her belief in the difference between great leadership and great management.


More on leadership and management:

3 Lessons in Humble Leadership From Four-Star General Stanley McChrystal(opens in new tab)

Luke Walton on LeBron James and Leading Under Pressure, in Basketball and Business(opens in new tab)

2 Leadership Traits Howard Schultz Used to Grow His Brand(opens in new tab)

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