The Difference Between Management and Leadership

Friday, November 1, 2013 - 07:24

By Leon Gettler

Peter Drucker, the most famous management thinker summed up the difference between managers and leaders perfectly. Management is doing things right, he said, leadership is doing the right things. The manager’s job is to plan, organise and coordinate. The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate. Two different things, but they are related. The goal of every manager should be to become a leader.

In his 1989 book, On Becoming a Leader, management philosopher Warren Bennis sums up the differences as follows: the manager administers and the leader innovates; the manager is a copy while the leader is an original; the manager imitates but the leader originates; the manager maintains but the leader develops. He says the manager focuses on system but the leader focuses on people. While the manager relies on control, the leader is the one who inspires trust. Managers tend to have a short-range view but leaders have long-range perspectives; the manager asks how and when while the leader asks what and why. As a rule, the manager always has his or her eye on the bottom line. The leader’s eye however is on the horizon. While the manager accepts the status quo, the leader always challenges it. To sum it up, the manager is the classic good soldier while the leader is his or her own person. Both are important.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review,  another management thinker John Kotter says management and leadership are two completely different things.

“In fact, management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organisation to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week. In organisations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. We constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs. So, management is crucial — but it’s not leadership.

“Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organisation into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it’s about behaviour. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it’s a recipe for failure.” sums up the difference well: “Leaders have a unique ability to rally employees around a vision. Because their belief in the vision is so strong, employees will naturally want to follow them. Leaders also tend to be willing to take risks in pursuit of the vision. Managers, on the other hand, are more adept at executing the vision in a very systemic way and directing employees on how to do so. They can see all of the intricate moving parts and understand how to make them harmonise. Managers are usually very risk-adverse.”