Do We Have to Choose Between Management and Leadership?

Do organizations need fewer managers and more leaders? Do the qualities of one outweigh those of the other? In this article, Esther Derby defines leadership and management, and shows how one test manager incorporates both.

In a recent discussion on the state of a software company, a programmer declared, "We don't need managers around here, we need leaders!"

I'm always puzzled by statements like this.

"How do you see the difference between management and leadership?" I asked.

"Managers do things right, and leaders do the right thing," the programmer replied, repeating a Warren Bennis quote.

"But what do they do differently?" I pressed.

"Managers manage, and leaders lead," the programmer replied with conviction.

Here's how leadership professor John Kotter describes the difference between management and leadership (which I paraphrase here):

Management is:

  • establishing timetables and steps for achieving needed results and allocating resources to make it happen
  • creating structure, staffing and delegating responsibility, and having the authority to accomplish goals
  • monitoring results, identifying deviations, and planning and organizing to solve problems
  • producing key results expected by various stakeholders

Leadership is:

  • establishing direction, and developing a vision for the future
  • aligning people, modeling the vision, influencing, and creating teams and coalitions
  • inspiring people to overcome barriers to change by satisfying basic human needs
  • producing useful change

Reading these lists, it's clear to me that organizations need both.

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