Management vs. Leadership

A common misconception in business is that leadership and management are essentially the same thing. Often, outstanding managers are promoted to leadership positions with the expectation that they will succeed just as they did in management.

While the two skill sets certainly intersect – many managers are accomplished leaders, for example – there are distinct elements to each role and what it brings to an organization.

Elements of an Effective Manager

Managers are typically responsible for planning, organizing and coordinating operations, processes and systems. Some of the elements that make good managers include:

  • Maximizing efficiency
  • Delegating authority
  • Maintaining order
  • Supporting existing structures
  • Avoiding risk
  • Short-term thinking
  • Focusing on the bottom line
  • Objectivity
  • Attention to detail

Elements of an Effective Leader

Leaders are expected to find opportunities for progress and growth, and set in motion the changes that will bring success. They often demonstrate the following attributes:

  • Visionary
  • Inspirational
  • Purposeful
  • Innovative
  • Long-range thinking
  • Tolerating or even embracing risk
  • Passion
  • Focusing on people

Management is a crucial element of business administration that is concerned with ensuring that products or services are produced and delivered as customers expect, and that companies profit from their endeavors.

“People love to work for well-organized managers who facilitate getting the job done by coordinating the work of various people,” Joseph C. Rost, a professor of leadership, wrote in his book Leadership for the Twenty-First Century.

Leadership incorporates how a company looks to its future, prepares for and seizes opportunities, and inspires employees and customers.

Definition of Leader Evolving

Because there are differences between the two roles, it’s possible to find talented managers who are not great leaders, as well as great leaders who are poor managers. To achieve objectives, leaders may rely on their charisma and influence, while managers lean on systems, hierarchies and authority. Where leaders may challenge the way things have always been done, managers may be inclined to uphold the status quo.

However, leadership and management also can be viewed as complementary and overlapping. Today, workers often look to managers to provide a sense of purpose, rather than simply a list of tasks. Meanwhile, leaders may be expected to have tangible skills in addition to possessing a strong personality, particularly in an increasingly data- and technology-driven business environment.

A recent American Management Association (AMA) survey of business and human resources executives worldwide found that leaders are increasingly defined not by their job title but by their performance and influence. The results indicate that “we’re reaching a tipping point where pace-setting companies now recognize that the term ‘leader’ applies to a far broader group than just those at the top of the organization chart,” Jennifer Jones of the AMA said in a July 2013 statement.

From Wall Street financial enterprises to Main Street mom-and-pop retailers, businesses need a mix of visionary leadership and management know-how in order to succeed.

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