Is leadership the same as management? Brighten project leadership development for wildly ambitious leaders

Is leadership the same as management?

thought leadership Sep 17, 2023


Is Leadership the Same as Management? A Deep Dive for New Leaders

We often interchangeably use the terms "leadership" and "management." After all, they both seem to hint at guiding people and ensuring team success. But, as many in their early leadership journey discover, they are not identical concepts. So, what sets them apart? And why does it matter for new leaders, especially those in the early stages of their career?



Leadership vs. Management: What's the difference bb?

At its core, management involves overseeing and coordinating work, optimising processes, and ensuring that tasks are completed correctly and on time. Dr. John Kotter from Harvard Business School says that management is about handling complexity. "Leadership is different from management, but not for the reasons most people think. Leadership isn’t mystical and mysterious. It has nothing to do with having “charisma” or other exotic personality traits. It is not the province of a chosen few. Nor is leadership necessarily better than management or a replacement for it. Rather, leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. Each has its own function and characteristic activities. Both are necessary for success in an increasingly complex and volatile business environment. Most ... corporations today are over-managed and underled" Kotter explains.

Leadership, on the other hand, deals with adapting to change, setting vision and direction, and inspiring people to go above and beyond. It's about human behaviour, not just processes. In the words of Warren Bennis, "Managers are people who do things right, and leaders are people who do the right thing."

What's interesting about this management vs. leadership debate is that you can have management without leadership, and you can have leadership without management - BUT Leadership with management is an incredibly powerful blend.

I once reported to a manager who excelled at coordinating resources. They ensured our tasks aligned with the team's workflow and provided the necessary tools. While efficient, they didn't inspire or shape the team's direction. On the contrary, a leader I worked for not only managed resources but also fostered a sense of purpose, created focus, and shared a compelling vision.


Why do we care? Isn't it all the same thing anyway?

For budding leaders, understanding this difference is crucial. Here's why:

Role Expectations: Understanding whether your role requires managerial or leadership qualities (or both) can shape your professional development. It influences training choices, mentorship relationships, and job responsibilities.

Navigating Work Relationships: Recognising these distinctions helps in setting expectations with your team. While a manager might be concerned with task completion, a leader often delves into career development, culture, and team dynamics.

Career Growth: Today's industries, especially those dominated by dynamic change, seek leaders, not just managers. While managerial roles focus on current systems, leadership positions often create and empower visionaries who can steer organisations into the future.


Your job title doesn't reflect the impact you can have

Just because you have a leadership title it doesn't necessarily make you a leader. Leadership isn't about titles or hierarchies; it's a conscious choice and a mindset. It's the decision to inspire, guide, and champion a vision, irrespective of the job title or position. I've worked with some incredible leaders who didn't have hierarchical authority in the form of a big team or a big job title, but they were highly influential in the business, incredibly inspiring and people tended to follow their lead on attitude, mindset and behaviours. Leading is a choice, not a job title.


Leadership and management are both critical to an organization's success. However, they serve different purposes and require distinct skills. As new leaders, arming yourself with this knowledge early on can guide your growth trajectory and help you become both an efficient manager and an inspiring leader.


Happy leading!







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