The Difference Between Leadership and Management

Leaders lead. Managers manage. Followers follow. Each of these roles within any organization is important, but there is often confusion about what leaders do vs. what managers do.

To me the distinction is clear.

I view the distinction between leading and managing like the difference between strategy and tactics–leaders establish strategy at a high level and, through their vision, lead their followers (managers and staff) toward some clearly articulated end point, or goal.¬†Leadership sets the vision and direction; management makes it happen.

Managers are tacticians–they are responsible for doing the things that need to be done to achieve the goal(s). This may involve working alone, or working with a combination of internal and external assistance to get the work done. Through this process they manage all of the moving parts toward a vision that has been established by the leaders of the organization.

Importantly, just because an individual holds one of these roles doesn’t make them automatically a good fit for the role. Some leaders act more like managers; some managers act more like leaders.

Organizations are best served when they can achieve clarity around these roles and when they can populate leadership and management positions with those best suited to fulfill these roles. At the same time, it’s important for organizations to know where they may be at risk in terms of not having ample talent on hand to serve as both leaders and managers. There is opportunity for line staff to be developed to move into management roles and, in turn, for management staff to be developed to move into leadership roles–that involves succession planning and leadership (or management) development.

We are at a turning point in this country with hordes of Baby Boomers (finally!) getting ready to leave their organizations and open up opportunities for GenX and GenY to take their places. Some organizations are prepared, or are preparing, for these transitions. Many are not. While managers may be abundant, the biggest gap I believe will be in the leadership ranks.

Look around your organization. Are your leaders leading? Are your managers being prepared to lead? Is your organization at risk of setbacks related to critical gaps in these roles?

Recommended Books:

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – John C. Maxwell

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations – James M. Louzes

Related Blog Posts:

Create, Co-create, Collaborate or Die

Business Failures: What’s Your Level of Risk?

Process and Variation: You Need a Little of Both


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Complete the math problem before submitting a comment. * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.