Leadership vs. Management

Being a leader and manager is traditionally unified under the broader sense of the word leadership, while at the same time there appears to be differences between the two functions.  This distinction is clearly explained by Joseph Rost in his book, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century and echoed by leadership experts Paul Hersey, Kenneth Blanchard and Dewey Johnson.  Hersey, Blanchard and Johnson state:

“Leadership is a broader concept than management.  Management is thought of as a special kind of leadership in which the accomplishment of organizational goals is paramount.  Leadership is an attempt to influence people, individually and in groups, for whatever reason” (145).

By some, management is thought of as a special kind of leadership, making both a leader and manager under an umbrella of a broader concept of leadership.  While distinctions may lie between being a leader and manager, problems in defining the roles are prevalent.

The difference between these two functions of leader and manager has been and continues to be a debate among numerous leadership experts seeking to find resolution to definition and function.  C.K. Prahalad sums up the debate by saying, “The last decade was one of turmoil in management thought, concepts, and tools” (1997, 159).  Two of the most well known business experts of the last decade, Ken Blanchard and Stephen Covey, present their view regarding the issue of manager and leader differences.  Blanchard pronounces, “I have not been a big fan of arguing about the difference between leadership and management.  Today I am even less interested in the argument” (1996, 81). Covey directs his thoughts not away from the issue but states, “There is a very significant difference between manager and leadership” (1996, 53).

Difference or no difference?  Worth a Blanchard-Covey Celebrity Death Match…or just semantics?


~ by Dave Smith on September 20, 2008.

7 Responses to “Leadership vs. Management”

  1. Not semantics, just BULL. The problem most authors have is that they have never really managed people. I did so for over 30 years, made all the errors, but eventually did successfully turn around four different management disasters.

    Quite simply, managers manage resources and functions such as finance, machines, production, supply chain, and people. People are just another resource. Each of these has particular characteristics which dictate, repeat dictate how they should be managed. Fail to understand their characteristics and you will fail to make effective use of that resource or function.

    People have certain characteristics such as the basic needs to be heard and to be respected. People respond to leadership, good or bad, a characteristic not shared by machines or finances. And because of their upbringing, the vast majority of people are followers and thus need superior leadership to “lead” them to very high performance.

    My point is that manager or leader is a false issue and only serves to prevent us from understanding what we need to do. If you are dealing with people, you need to understand what leadership actually is, or what it is that people follow, and how to use that to your advantage.

    Leadership applies only to people and denotes the sending of value standard messages to people which they then follow/use. Thus we say that they have been “led” in the direction of those value standards. Leadership is therefore one side of the coin called values, the other side being followership.

    Leadership is not a process any manager can change. It happens inexorably every minute of every day because of the way people are. The only choice available to a manager is the standard (good, bad, mediocre or in between) which employees will follow.

    For instance, the top-down command and control technique is a specific method by which to manage people . Since top-down by its nature demeans and disrespects people, it “leads” them to demean and disrespect their work, their customers, each other and their bosses resulting in very poor performance.

    If you want to lead employees to very high performance, treat them with great respect and not like robots, thus leading them to treat their work, their customers, each other and their bosses with great respect.

    To learn more about the right and wrong ways to manage/lead people, please read these Leadership Articles starting with the article “Leadership, Good or Bad”.

    Best regards, Ben

  2. Thanks for the wisdom and insight Ben…as well as the link to futher study on this matter.

    I have always admired Jospeh Rosts’s definition of leadership (in his book, Leadership for the 21st Century): “Leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes.”

    To then contrast that defintion with Charles Kepner and Hirotsugu Iikubo’s definition of management (from their book, Managing Beyond the Ordinary), they state: a manager is to “get things done, using the resources available in the best, most efficient way possible”

    Show the distinction you have pointed out above.

    I think within the Christian-based context of where I serve, I may define leadership as: “Being divinely directed to prepare, empower, manage and serve all the followers God has contextually given one, achieving God’s will and vision of ministry, while modeling an accountable lifestyle of one’s heart and God-given leadership skills.”

  3. Dave,

    Thanks for the thanks.

    I don’t particularly like Rosts’ definition only because leadership can be very good, very bad, or somewhere in between because followers follow regardless of the direction or extent.

    My own understanding was greatly aided by the words of our Savior to love our neighbors and to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It took me years to understand who my neighbor was and once I realized that everyone was, more years to design actions that would make my neighbors believe that I loved them. Along the way, I realized that my most important responsibility was to support my people with training, tools, discipline, direction, peace of mind, material, planning, information, technical advice, and others. So I was their servant and they were my customers. The more I moved to treating my customers with great respect, the more responsible, productive, innovative and creative they became until we were literally as a group able to blow away competitors. Besides, everyone loved to come to work. Jesus Christ served as a perfect example of being a servant to us and emulating him in that regard defines loving your neighbor.

    So I proved that truly being a very good Christian is the secret to success as a manager of people, proved in turning around a 1300 person unionized group in New York City.

    Best regards, Ben

  4. Well said Ben. An execellent example of how God-oriented intent woven into all aspects of life (i.e. business leadership & management) can “hallow” everything we touch under the name of Christ…making it sacred.

  5. I side with Covey on the ‘Death Match’. I think it is worthwhile to distinguish between the two terms. First, the world already distinguishes between the two words both explicitly and implicitly. It may boil down to a semantic hairsplitting, but semantics are what we have to understand our world and communicate thoughts about it. For example, I think there are many who consider ‘Management’ to be some form of inferior type of ‘Leadership’ (Bennis), which I think does a great disservice to many things that good ‘Management’ contributes to an undertaking and can lead people to mistakenly underinvest in this discipline.. Second, I think a lot of success boils down to balance between trade-offs in business and in life.

    I have been blogging about the Leader/Manager distinction for several years and have never found myself running short of great material to illustrate soome very useful points when looking at the two through this lens. My own model uses ‘approach to risk’ as the distinctive dimension – ‘Leaders optimise upside, Managers minimise downside.’

  6. You are right, Bruce, when you say that one will never run short of material to illustrate a point using the leader/ manager distinction. Just check out the huge number of books focused all or in part on that distinction. Authors have never run out. In fact, most write many books about almost the same topic and never provide a lasting solution. So yours is a money making road.

    But in reality, down where the rubber meets the road in the workplace, it is not worth spit and won’t help anyone to get the work done. In fact, in my years of experience helping subordinates learn how to manage people, it has always had a negative influence.

    The world does distinguish between the two words, but then the majority has never been right about much of anything.

    Best regards, Ben

  7. Thanks for your further thoughts Bruce.

    It seems that with a variety of systems established by organizations, the prevailing structure is threefold: (1) the leadership casting the vision and goals, (2) the management coordinating activities to accomplish the vision and goals, and (3) the “doers” of the actual tasks. As the umbrella of leadership takes place on each level at some degree, the amount of leadership given within the area of management varies at extreme levels. To lessen the obscurity of what leadership power a manager has, should their be the defining of a new role between leader and manager? This will not only lessen leadership-management role confusion, but also create a better system for organizations.

    I have no idea what that would be…but maybe it would simply muddy the waters even more.

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