The Difference Between Management and Leadership
March 15, 2016 by Bill Rosenthal

What's the difference between management and leadership? We know, almost instinctively, that leaders are more rare than managers and that they can also be far more effective, particularly in the case of a crisis. You can have a rewarding and fulfilling career as a professional manager, but you can change the world as a leader. Effective managers get people to perform at the level that’s needed. Great leaders get them to go beyond that. It’s no wonder that research shows 15-20% of the variance in a company’s performance comes down to leadership.

You have probably heard hundreds of comparisons between managers and leaders:

  • The manager focuses on the short term, the leader on the long term.
  • The manager maintains, the leader innovates.
  • The manager controls, the leader inspires.
  • The manager watches the bottom line, the leader watches the horizon.
  • The manager accepts the existing state of affairs, the leader challenges it.

These comparisons imply that if you want to be a leader, you must cultivate a long-range perspective, think for yourself, and become the kind of person people want to follow. That’s all true, but when you look at those comparisons closely, you can see they are based on stereotypes, and stereotypes can restrict your vision and cause you to look for characteristics you expect rather than those that are really there. I can imagine, for example, an effective leader who works within the existing state of affairs. I can imagine a manager who looks toward the future. I can imagine a leader who controls and a manager who inspires. I’ve known people like those. 

The truth is, the only realistic way to distinguish between a manager and a leader is to do so functionally:

  • The manager has subordinates, the leader has followers.

This means a manager’s relationship with employees is institutional, but a leader’s is personal. You can manage by the book, in other words, but you can only lead by the heart. Leaders find something unexpected in their followers, often unexpected by even the followers themselves. Can you learn to do this? I think you can.

Today, many employees suffer from unclear expectations, vague priorities, inconsistent feedback and performance monitoring, unclear and unspecific direction, and untimely and ineffective correction for performance errors. Nobody wants to be a micromanager, and everybody wants to “empower” employees. Too often, these two impulses result in hands-off management.

Communispond is offering a new series of interrelated workshops designed to help managers develop leadership skills. They increase a leader’s understanding of the impact that different management styles have on team performance and strengthen abilities to diagnose causes of non-performance, take action to improve results, conduct successful individual and team coaching and development, and more effectively communicate in workplace conversations and formal performance assessment reviews.

If you are a leader, the relationship that you have with each employee should be as individual as the employee. From setting expectations, to coaching for performance and communicating vision, each of our new workshops is devoted to a particular leadership skill. And it trains managers to acquire those skills, to transcend expectations of the manager-employee relationship, and to become leaders.

When you have strong leaders, you have a strong company. We’re excited about this new line of workshops, and we are confident it can take your organization to the next level of performance. You can download a detailed brochure here.