Is there a difference between management and leadership? Differing opinions abound, though most experts do indeed distinguish between the two. This brief article examines the key characteristics associated with effective management and leadership behavior in the workplace and makes a case for the necessity of both skill sets, though in varying degrees at times, for organizational excellence.
As mentioned above, some experts think of leadership and management as synonymous terms, using them interchangeably when discussing the subject. Others view these terms as very different indeed – almost as extreme opposites, with very little overlap. A third position is one that seems most sensible to us – that while differences between leadership and management exist, perhaps there are times when the two can and do overlap and that we often need both to achieve excellence.
Doing the right thing vs. doing things right
An old and well-known proverb states that leadership is, “doing the right thing,” while management is “doing things right.” While an obvious overgeneralization, this distinction presents a useful starting place for thoughtful consideration of the similarities and differences between effective management and leadership behavior. Review of the literature lead to development of the comparisons below which outline some of the major attempts to describe the two fields in the simplest of terms:
– The Leader focuses on Alignment; the Manager on Organization.
– The Leader focuses on Vision/Direction; the Manager on Process Control.
– The Leader focuses on the Big Picture; the Manager on the Details The Leader has a Strategic focus; the Manager a Tactical one.
– The Leader has his/her eye on the Horizon; the Manager has an eye on the Bottom Line The Leader is all about Change; the Manager is all about Stability
– The Leader Challenges the Status Quo; the Manager accepts the Status Quo
– The Leader is comfortable with Informality; the Manager operates with Formality
– The Leader is focused on Effectiveness; the Manager on Efficiency
– The Leader focuses on Styles and Approach; the Manager focuses on Skills
– The Leader Releases Potential; the Manager Uses Existing Abilities
– The Leader mainly uses the Power of Influence; the Manager mainly uses the Power of Authority
– The Leader Facilitate Decisions; the Manager Makes Decisions
– The Leader Investigates Reality; the Manager Accepts Reality
– The Leader asks “why” and “what”; the Manager asks “how” and “when”
Which is best?
By laying out the two functions side-by-side like this some clarity about the terms starts to emerge. Exclusion of any skill or ability can negatively impact success, and so the game becomes more about drawing on both skill sets over time, in differing proportion. Hence, we can see that both leadership and management are important. But can we now determine in what proportion, in most circumstances?
Moving up the organizational ladder
Another factor to consider is that of positional responsibility within the organization. Classic theory tells us that management (tactical skills) is more critical to success at lower and mid-levels of management while leadership (strategic abilities) is used more often at senior or upper management levels. While this simple differentiation presents another gross generalization, it can start us thinking about how individual roles might take on a given emphasis in one direction or another.
Mixing and matching
Another way to look at split and degree of emphasis is to put leadership and management into a classic, four-quadrant relationship grid, and looking at the resulting combinations of high and low skills. In this way one can examine the resulting interaction, or even “style” that occurs as a result of the expression of high and low levels of each variable as we shown below.
* Strong Leadership but Weak Management Visions detached from reality Alignment without organisation Multiple projects culture slowly emerges Strategies lack support and formal planning
* Strong Leadership and Strong Management Inspirational visions and strategies Widespread organisational alignment Integrated planning and control of resources Full employee empowerment and commitment
* Weak Leadership and Weak Management No vision or strategies Poor planning and resource allocation Out of control processes Employee disaffection and frustration
* Weak Leadership and Strong Management Processes grow more unwieldy and/or bureaucratic Over-specialisation/standardization More policies and procedures evolve Controls stifle creativity/innovation
Strong/ Strong is Optimal
It is now quite clear that, in most cases, both strong leadership and strong management are desirable, and that one is not necessarily more important than the other. Given this conclusion, the focus shifts to evaluation of the question of whether we have enough good management behavior, and enough good leadership behavior in order to thrive and move ahead.
How much is good enough?
Assuming that the organization is not occupying the bottom left corner of the previous relationship grid, if we need to add more leadership then the emphasis will be on greater use of the communication process (in both directions), pulling people together and creating more widespread team commitment (among other things). If, on the other hand, we need to add more management, then the emphasis will be on greater standardization or specialization, the establishment of more formal structures and greater control of systems (among other things.
Summing up Ultimately, organizational success rests on a healthy balance of leadership and management and we need to learn how to make sure we have enough of each and in the right proportion for the circumstances. To learn more about this topic, visit our Leadership and Management Forum [out] at the ReadytoManage Webstore. Individuals interested in learning more about their own Management and Leadership Skills may be interested in checking out the Leadership Effectiveness profile and the Management Effectiveness Profile, both of which can be found in the Leadership and Management Forum or in the webstore.