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Beyond semantics: Why "Taking the lead/ership" does not equal “Leadership”

By Eve Vlemincx.

Repeatedly, I encounter the phrase "taking the leadership" instead of "taking the lead," implying that taking the lead is synonymous with leadership. Regardless of whether it’s a proper use of language, both concepts are distinct, and here's why.

Leadership is often heralded as a cornerstone of organizational success. Companies actively seek leaders, and individuals aspire to lead—this much is true. However, in our pursuit of effective management, we often overlook the disparity between "taking the lead" and leadership.

It's more than a linguistic nuance; it's a paradigm shift capable of redefining organizational cultures and individual mindsets.

"Taking the lead" typically implies assuming control or direction in a specific situation—a momentary position rather than a comprehensive and enduring quality. More often than not, taking the lead is associated with management rather than leadership. It may command attention and drive short-term success, steering the ship in specific contexts.

Leadership transcends this notion, and is about consistently inspiring, motivating, and empowering others, embodying a holistic and sustained influence that goes beyond mere guidance.

The distinction between these terms is pivotal.

Genuine leaders create environments where every individual feels valued and capable of contributing meaningfully. They don't merely lead initiatives; they cultivate a culture of growth, inclusivity, and empowerment.

In fact, they inspire others to lead initiatives or to take the lead...

The language we use matters for a deep understanding and correct implementation.

Emphasizing "taking the lead" might inadvertently limit the recognition of broader leadership qualities an individual possesses. This distinction is crucial in fostering a culture that encourages and sustains leadership at all levels of an organization.

Moreover, leadership breeds resilience and long-term impact. While taking the lead may bring immediate results in a specific project, genuine leadership creates a ripple effect that endures. It fosters an atmosphere where individuals feel empowered to innovate, collaborate, and lead themselves, magnifying the collective impact.

By acknowledging the difference between "taking the lead" and "leadership," businesses can recalibrate their focus on cultivating genuine leadership.

It invites a more inclusive approach, recognizing and celebrating diverse leadership styles and contributions. This fosters an environment where individuals are not just guided but are empowered to become leaders in their own right.


While "taking the lead" showcases initiative and direction in a given situation, "leadership" encapsulates a broader and enduring set of qualities. Understanding this distinction can reshape organizational cultures, paving the way for a new era of impactful leadership in the corporate landscape.



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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