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People management? People are not to be managed, they are to be led.

By Eve Vlemincx.


In the realm of organizational dynamics, the concept of "people management" has long been a staple. However, a growing perspective challenges the traditional notion that people can be managed like any other resource. Instead, it suggests that people are not meant to be managed, but rather led, guided, and inspired. This article delves into the idea that true leadership transcends the traditional confines of "people management" and explores why individuals thrive when they are empowered and motivated rather than controlled.

The fallacy of “managing people”

The assumption that people can be managed stems from a mindset rooted in control and hierarchy. It treats individuals as mere cogs in a machine, focusing primarily on compliance and efficiency. This approach fails to recognize the uniqueness and complexity of human beings. People are not passive objects to be manipulated but active agents with their own aspirations, motivations, and abilities.

When we attempt to manage people, we overlook the potential for growth, creativity and innovation that can arise from their individual strengths. By imposing rigid structures and top-down control, we stifle autonomy and discourage the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Furthermore, people are more likely to disengage when they feel like they are being managed, leading to reduced productivity and diminished job satisfaction.

The power of leadership

In contrast to the concept of people management, leadership emphasizes the art of leading. The art of influencing and inspiring others. Leaders recognize that their role is not to control people but to tap into their potential and create an environment where they can thrive. They set a compelling vision, communicate effectively, and empower individuals to take ownership of their work.

Effective leaders understand the importance of building relationships based on trust, respect and open communication. They value the diverse perspectives and skills that each person brings to the table. Rather than micromanaging, they provide guidance and support, allowing individuals to exercise their judgment and make meaningful contributions.

Guidance and inspiration

Leadership involves guiding individuals towards a shared purpose and inspiring them to achieve their fullest potential. It means providing clear direction while allowing flexibility for personal growth and development. Leaders understand that different people have different needs and motivations, and they adapt their approach accordingly.

Instead of managing people, leaders cultivate an environment that fosters continuous learning, collaboration, and innovation. They invest in their team's professional development, encourage autonomy, and provide opportunities for growth. They foster a culture of trust and psychological safety where individuals feel valued and empowered to take risks and learn from failures.


The notion of "people management" is long overdue, since organizations need a more holistic and human-centered approach to leadership. True leadership involves leading, guiding, and inspiring individuals rather than attempting to control and manage them. By acknowledging the unique qualities of each person, valuing their contributions and empowering them to reach their potential, leaders create thriving environments that foster innovation, engagement and growth.

As we move forward, it is essential for organizations to embrace the shift. By understanding that people are not to be managed but to be led, guided and inspired, we can create workplaces that celebrate individuality, encourage collaboration, and drive sustainable success.


About the Author Eve Vlemincx is a strategic advisor with expertise in a wide array of areas including legal digital transformation, innovation and leadership. She serves as an advisory council member for Harvard Business Review and is a Course Facilitator at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Eve is highly sought after as a keynote speaker and guest lecturer in various professional settings. Notably, she has been honored as a five-time recipient of the Stanford GSB LEAD Award.

Operating at the dynamic intersection of legal and business, Eve holds certifications from esteemed institutions such as Oxford, Harvard, Kellogg and Stanford Graduate School of Business. Additionally, she brings substantial experience as a seasoned lawyer specializing in corporate law and restructurings.

Eve's guiding philosophy is centered on working smarter, not harder, as she helps individuals and organizations navigate the complexities of today's rapidly evolving landscape.

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