Leadership vs. Management

I don’t know how many leadership books I’ve read that make the point in the first chapter that leadership and management are two different things. Ronald Heifetz makes the point in his book Leadership without Easy Answers. He writes, “Recently, however, business people have drawn a distinction between leadership and management…” I can agree with the premise at some level; Mahatma Gandhi is not known for his management skill.

That said, and in the context of temporary organizations, the processes of leadership and management do not operate separately. I have never met a good leader that was not a good manager nor a good manager that was not a good leader. There is a synergy here that cannot be overlooked or underestimated.

Doing a quick Google search on the top ten skill for leadership and management you get a list that looks like this:


1. Communication 1. Interpersonal

2. Motivation 2. Communication

3. Delegation 3. Motivation

4. Positivity 4. Organization

5. Trustworthiness 5. Delegation

6. Creativity 6. Forward Planning

7. Feedback 7. Strategic Thinking

8. Responsibility 8. Problem Solving

9. Commitment 9. Business Acumen

10. Flexibility 10. Mentoring

Comparing of the two lists reveals there is plenty of crossover between good leadership and good management.

Good managers should strive to be good leaders and good leaders, need management skills to be effective.

I guess one can argue that leadership is about visioning and influence while management is about control and organization. Eisenhower tell us as much, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Of course, wanting to do something is meaningless without the resources and discipline to do it.

Perhaps a better quote to help us understand the synergy between leadership and management comes from Stephen Covey who said, “Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”

Can you imagine a leader with a vision and without the discipline to carry it out?

My point in this post is that I believe we do a disservice to our organizations by believing that good leadership does not entail good management and good management does not require good leadership. While the two concepts of leadership and management may sprout from different fields of inquiry, in today’s organizations they operate in the same space and are not, and one cannot be exclusive of the other. I'd love to here what you think?

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