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What is the difference between leadership and management?

Written By

Clay Parcells

President at Executive Leadership Performance, LLC

Briefly Speaking

Businesses require both leaders and managers to be successful. This article outlines the difference between leadership and management.
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What is the difference between leadeship and management?  I believe the biggest difference between leadership and management is the way they motivate the people who work or follow them.  Leaders and managers exhibit a set of different skills and behaviors that are closely linked and complimentary to each other. Management and leadership are both necessary for success.   Individuals who can excel in both help their employees and organizations thrive in today's business climate.

Businesses provide their staff and their managers an environment to lead, but there is no quarantee that they will be able to lead effectively. Not all managers exercise leadership. How many of you have worked for a manager that was a terrible leader?  Leadership can also come from those who don't manage. How many of you have been inspired by those who don't have a position of authority or manage people?

Organizations need both strong leadership and strong management for optimal effectiveness.  We need leaders who challenge the status quo and inspire and influence. In addition, we need managers to assist in developing and maintaining a smoothly functioning workplace.

Here are some additional distinctions outlining the difference between leadership and management:

Leadership focuses on people, management focuses on things.

Leadership looks outward, management looks inward.

Leadership articulates a vision, management executes plans.

Leadership empowers, management controls.

Leadership creates the future, management improves the present.

Leadership trusts and develops, management directs and coordinates.

Leadership creates change, management manages change.

Leadership uses influence, management uses authority.

Leadership uses and deals with conflict, management avoids conflict.

Leadership acts decisively, management acts responsibly.

Leadership is doing the right things, management is doing things right.

No matter what role you are in today, I recommend that you evaluate yourself on these distinctions and think about what you need to do to elevate your leadership.

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5 Reader Comments Share your thoughts.

    Bruce Lynn 2 years ago
    I've never approved of those distinctions from Warren Bennis' 'On Leadership' (except for the last one which is very poetic and symbiotic). I think they are dated and a imappropriately paint 'Management' in a bad light. Many of the charcterisations of 'Management' are not 'Management', but simply 'Bad Leadership' (eg. using authority) or something more mundane, 'Administration' (eg. 'executes plans', 'acts responsibly').

    I've always espoused a simpler model of the distinction between Leaders and Managers that is based on decision-making around risk (perhaps tautological since all 'true' decision making incorporates an element of risk). Leader optimise upside opportunity; Managers minimise downside risk. Both of needed in appropriate balance to optimise outcomes.
    Heike Noack 2 years ago
    Hi Clay
    One idea more: A leader will be born, a manager will be educated.