Leadership Vs Management – Is there a difference?
I suppose the first thing to do in talking leadership is to try understand what is meant by the term leadership and I’m also interested to understand if it is the same as management, as we frequently see these terms used interchangeably.
John Kotter has a simple but memorable definition – management is about managing complexity and leadership is about managing change.
Kotter would seem to definitely imply a difference between the two, viewing each as a distinctive function in its own right but highly complementary. He theorises that as organisations grew and became increasingly complex during the middle of the twentieth century there was a demand for the practices and process of strong management, similarly as the rate of change (globalisation and competitiveness) accelerated toward the end of the century there was increased demand for leadership to cope with this change.
Abraham Zaleznik in his HBR Classic article, Managers & Leaders – Are They Different? again suggests that managers and leaders are two very different types of people. Zaleznik talks about leaders adopting very personal active attitudes towards their goals, being tolerant of chaos and therefore able to avoid premature closure on important issues. Managers’ goals on the other hand often arise more out of necessity rather than desire, causing them to seek order and control and to have almost a ‘compulsion’ to disposing of problems. Zaleznik’s experience and insight lead him to conclude that it is often this instinct to impose order on potential chaos that leads to the most serious problems for organisations.
So are leaders and managers different? And if so, is there a need for companies to have both good managers and leaders in order to survive and succeed?
While the answers to the above questions would obviously seem to be yes and yes, it is a topic that I’d like to explore and understand a little more, for example; can managers evolve into leaders? How? And should they try?