Are you a Manager or a Leader?

As a student of leadership, I’ve been wrestling with a question for some time…

What’s the real difference between management and leadership?

Leadership has become such a glamorized word in our culture.  It feels so much nicer and more inspiring than the often derogatory connotation that comes with the word management.

But the longer I study great leaders, the more I’m convinced that you can’t be a great leader without being a great manager.

Sometimes I feel like today’s leaders want the glory of being known as a great leader without the hard work of management.

Great leaders are great managers.

Let’s take a minute to look at some definitions:

leadership – an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction

to lead:

  • to go before or with to show the way; conduct or escort
  • to conduct by holding and guiding
  • to influence or induce; cause
  • to guide in direction, course, action, opinion, etc.
  • to command or direct (an army or other large organization)
  • to go at the head of or in advance of (a procession, list, body, etc.)
  • a person who has control or direction of an institution, business, etc., or of a part, division, or phase of it.
  • a person who controls and manipulates resources and expenditures, as of a household.
to manage:
  • to bring about or succeed in accomplishing, sometimes despite difficulty or hardship
  • to take charge or care of
  • to handle, direct, govern, or control in action or use

Do you see the overlap and the complimentary themes?

Management is the method by which great leadership is executed.  The two go hand in hand.  Management is one of several important dimensions of leadership.

If you are trying to lead without the difficult work of management, you are going to find yourself floundering and frustrated.

Management takes a leader’s instincts and inspiration and puts action to it.

We’ve got to quit being afraid of management.  Management is the stewardship engine that drives leadership.

The eloquent use of management as an element of our leadership is a beautiful picture of influence as an art form.

How does the word management make you feel?

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  • Charissa Steyn September 27, 2010  

    Hi Jenni! I love this topic.. have you read the book Tribes by Seth Godin? He talks alot about this difference between manager and leade

  • Lindsey_Nobles September 28, 2010  

    I do think the word manager has gotten a negative connotation. It is a skill that is not valued enough these days.

    BUT I also think you can be a great leader without being a great manager. If you are leading an organization, you probably need to be paired up with someone who is great at manager if it is not your particular area of expertise.

  • Aaron Shaver September 30, 2010  

    OK, so I'm 3 days late on this post. But, I've got to tell you how much I appreciate what you've shared here. ____I read/hear from so many about the difference between leadership and management and, just like you've suggested, management always seems to be shown in a negative light. I can't stress how important the details can be. No matter how great the vision, if it doesn't have details/logistics/go-to people with it, it won't become reality. ____And, I would add that it takes leadership to implement a plan and make the tough calls that a manager is usally left with the resposibility of making.

  • Jenny October 1, 2010  

    I think about this all the time. I work with great leaders… and great managers. One of the leaders I work with is absolutely stellar – he is fabulous because he has hired great managers to do the day-to-day management work.

    For the environment I find myself in – I can see that there is a difference between leadership and management. You can literally be "gifted" with leadership (the ability to lead groups of people in a certain direction) but not be a great day-to-day manager. In this case… have a good management team under you. Leadership is influence. Management is day-to-day organizational abilities. I don't know if people are always gifted with both.

  • Jenny October 1, 2010  

    OR, the great managers below the great leader have seen the skills the high-level leader has (visioneering, etc)… and pushed them into places where they can use that skill, while the mid-level managers focus on the day-to day. IF the great leader (high level) is humble… he or she will submit to the organizational decisions to place him or her into a more visioneering role… and trust the good managers under him or her to steer the day to day stuff…. If a leadership team trusts each other… they move their folks to the most optimal place of service in the organizational body… just a thought, what do you think?