Leadership vs Management


Current public events across the world relating to government have highlighted once again that the significant difference between leadership and management is not always readily understood, even by highly responsible persons in public office. But we don’t have to be involved in those;  understanding the difference and the need for both is essential for any organisation, however small and humble it may appear to be. Often persons need to be competent in both, but not always.

So what is the difference between the two? It’s easy enough to quote from textbooks and academic articles and these can help. But I prefer to keep things simple and based on my observations and practical experience.

Often we can instinctively identify someone as being a good leader but find it difficult to clearly articulate why. That’s largely because, in my view, leadership is primarily about an individuals character, their beliefs and values, their conviction as to these, the way they communicate them and convince others of the rightness of them. In business we often speak about “vision” and that lies at the root of effective leadership. As has been said many times before, leaders have followers.

On the other hand management is easier to define because it is largely about getting the job done through planning, organising, monitoring, reviewing, training, coaching and so on. Managers largely turn a leaders “vision” for the future, their beliefs and values into reality. Managers therefore have subordinates, people who are responsible to their manager for the delivery of activities, tasks etc allocated to them.

Both leadership and management are needed. Miss one out and things can go horribly wrong. The current situation in the UK with regard to Brexit is a potent example. Objective, serious observers of the current Prime Minister, Mrs. May, speak of her as a conscientious and hard working manager, but a very poor leader. For nearly three years she has been attempting to ‘manage’ the delivery of a plan, (something incidentally that she had the substantial resource of the British Civil service to do for her!), but failed to realise that to be successful her prime role and responsibility was to convince people that what she was attempting to achieve and the way she was going about it was right.

So what about you, and what about your organisation? Are you a leader or a manager, or both? Do you have high calibre leaders and managers in your organisation? Does your organisation recognise that people of influence in ‘high places’ must be effective leaders? It is less important, and in some cases hardly important at all, that they are effective managers provided they have people who are and who are convinced that their “vision’ is right. These managers will make it happen for them!  Often in much smaller organisations those in key positions of responsibility have to effective as both leaders and managers, not only setting out and convincing others of their vision but managing the achievement of it.

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