What’s the difference between leadership and management?
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What’s the difference between leadership and management?

Leadership and management are considered to be different things, and we often get confused between the two.

Consider our historical leaders such as Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela.  What is it that made them leaders? And what can we learn from these leaders that we can apply in an organisational context?

There are many jobs and roles in organisations that have responsibility for both leadership and management. What is almost certain is that you will be responsible for the performance and output of people who are in your team. So, how do you get the people who work in your section or team to carry out the activities that you are responsible for? And how do you get the team to achieve the results that you require? Is this leadership or management?

Let’s look at a couple of definitions of management:

‘To manage is to forecast and plan, to organise, to command, to co-ordinate and to control’ – Henry Fayol (1916)

‘Managing is an operational process initially best dissected by analysing the managerial functions …. The five essential managerial functions (are): planning, organising, staffing, directing and leading, and controlling.’ – Koontz and O’Donnell (1984)

So, from these definitions we can see that management is functional and about “doing”. It is only in the most recent definition that leading is mentioned. Even then it is as an integral part of management, not separately!

Let’s look at leadership now:

The British military defines leadership as: ‘Getting someone to do what you want them to, even if they don’t want to do it’

This definition is very close to that offered by President Dwight Eisenhower. He defined leadership as:  ‘Getting someone to want to do what you want them to do’

Eisenhower’s definition begs the question.  How to get people to do the job they are paid to do to the best of their ability? This definition suggests that effective leadership is based upon the leader having a positive impact upon the people they are trying to lead, about how a leader influences and inspires their team.

A ‘manager’ is someone who gets things done through the actions of other people.   As a minimum, it is possible to manage people simply by giving them orders and instructions. For example, ‘do this’,  ‘do that’,  ‘go to here’ and so on. BUT – that is not leading them.

A ‘leader’ is someone who by some means or other, makes people want to do what they do for them. This could be through his or her personality and character. It could be by setting a good example or through letting people take their own responsibilities. Communication of their vision and their behaviour can also be ways to achieve this.

The biggest difference between managers and leaders is ….

the way they motivate the people who work for or follow them, and this sets the tone for most other aspects of what they do. Many of us are both leaders and managers as we may have management jobs and the authority and hierarchy that we associate with being in management. But we realise that we cannot buy hearts, we cannot forcibly  inspire people, especially to follow them down a difficult path such as change, and so we act as leaders too, where we engage, influence and motivate our teams through our behaviour, communication and integrity.

So, the difference between leadership and management can be attributed to assigned authority and the ability to either direct (Management) or to be able to appeal to our teams (Leadership) so that they want to follow us; they want to do the work required because they understand the importance of the work and they trust us.

Let’s go back to our earlier question of what made Churchill, Mandela and Gandhi leaders? They inspired us to want to follow them in battle, against apartheid and against dictatorship through communication of their vision, their behaviour and their integrity. Have a look at the leaders around you, whether within your own organisation or across the world – can you see leaders displaying these characteristics?

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