How are Management and Leadership different from one another?

Well, first of all, let’s avoid the mistake of merely labeling people as either Managers or Leaders. Think of ‘manage’ and ‘lead’ as functions rather than individuals.

Also, there’s a lot of overlap and mutual dependency between the two functions.

People have written entire books to try to explain the difference between the two functions. In this little nutshell of a blog, let me suggest that management is more transactional, relating to the engineering and execution of company practices and strategies, the manufacturing or distribution of goods or services, the development of facilities, the stewardship of finances, and the like. The leadership function is more transformative, dealing in the realm of vision, change agency, and long-term strategy.

However, the management function contains within it essential leadership requirements. As the management function focuses on the maximization of assets and efficiencies, this naturally involves the maximization of employee engagement and productivity. Also, this, of course, calls on skills that might be more associated with the leadership function, such as vision, influence, and personal inspiration and development.

The successful manifestation of the leadership function also contains much that would typically be considered management functions. Anyone who thinks leadership consists of thinking great thoughts and passing vision down the line to the management function misses much of what makes effective leaders successful. Leadership requires mental discipline and clarity, a sense of program and project scope and management, a realistic matching of ideas with the resources needed to bring those ideas into action, and a willingness to hold people accountable, which also requires a high level of organization. It also requires a hard-headed ability to size up the talents and capabilities of others and to put the pieces in place to build the organization’s heart and spirit.

So let’s stop the nonsense of strict categorization of these two functions insofar as it leads us to slap labels on people as one or the other. If you want to manage effectively, you have to lead. If you’re going to lead effectively, you need to manage – and manage yourself if nothing else.

About the Author

Sarah Thomson

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