Management and Leadership (Differences?)

Sections of this topic

    What is Management?

    First of all, after this blog entry, I plan to avoid drawing a strong distinction, unless necessary, between leadership and management. The word management means many different things to people. For example, it is sometimes conceptualized as a discipline, as is medicine or engineering. It is also commonly viewed as a set of specific, or not-so-specific, behaviors. For many, management is the same thing as the role of a manager, which is seen as a certain job level or classification. In referring to it as a discipline, Joan Magretta states that management is the “accumulating body of thought and practice that makes organizations work”. While this is a wonderfully succinct way of describing a vast body of knowledge, I will not be talking about management as a discipline. Although I highly recommend Joan’s book “What Management Is” (2002) for a delightfully easy-to-read overview of the discipline. I will be talking about management as a type of leadership and also as a level of leadership (i.e. the manager).

    What Happened to Management?

    In the era of Dilbert, management, and managers have had a pretty tough time in terms of their credibility and status within Western culture. The term “manager” really suffered at the hands of Jack Welch in his early years as CEO at General Electric. This is ironic since Welch was a huge proponent and practitioner of what, at that time in the early ‘80s, were core management principles and best practices. But Jack was out to shake GE up and felt that the term “manager” carried too many negative associations within the company. He replaced it with the term “leader” and helped start an era in which these anointed leaders held a special status. Funny enough, although he replaced the word manager with leader, he strove to develop at GE the use by leaders of proven management principles. Of course, Jack and the good folks at GE were also at the forefront of developing management practices now widely used across industries and generally accepted as best-in-class. But there were many other influences in the loss of luster for those involved in management, such as when the ultimate management guru, Peter Drucker, decided to start using the term “executive” in place of “manager.

    Management and Leadership Differences

    It is clear to me that people in “managerial” roles are, in fact, in positions of leadership. From an organizational perspective, all managers are leaders, and all leaders, to some extent, are involved in or responsible for certain practices that should be considered management. But, although having stated that management is a type of leadership, there are some important distinctions that I use in my work as a consultant involved with leadership assessment, development, and coaching. The distinctions I make are related primarily to levels of leadership and the skills, qualities, and knowledge that commonly correspond with success at different levels. This is an important, arguably necessary distinction when an organization is involved in succession planning and developing its leadership “pipeline”. For example, organizations need different abilities and qualities from team members who are individual contributors, in comparison to managers, in comparison to managers of managers, and so on up the functional ladder. My point is, from a practical standpoint it is almost impossible to develop a coherent and effective approach to talent management without delineated levels of leadership — or at least roles.

    Why Management?

    I think that organizations should acknowledge that managers are, in fact, leaders and critical to the success and sustainability of the business. It has been demonstrated that managers — those who oversee the work of those who do the work — have enormous influence on the goals and bottom line of an organization. This is because of their central role in ensuring that line staff, for lack of a better term, is engaged and productive at work. There is strong evidence that employees who have a strong sense of connection with their boss, feel appreciated, and cared for, and understand how their work fits into the larger vision, are more satisfied and productive. This is more often than not the job of the manager.

    What is Management Work?

    About specific responsibilities, I believe that a significant difference between managers from more “senior leaders” (or senior managers for that matter), is in how managers get things done, the tools they use to things done, and the type of influence they have within an organization. Historically, the term management has referred to individuals engaged in the activities of planning, organizing, leading, and coordinating resources toward the attainment of specific goals. In recent years, and many organizations, management has come to include a variety of other responsibilities in such areas as talent management, coaching, and change management, to name a few. The specifics around the how, tools and influence of management can be discussed at another time. For now, I would simply like to make several other distinctions between managers and the core responsibilities of other, more senior leaders. These core responsibilities are a) direct involvement in the execution and implementation of business strategy, b) monitoring and measuring of performance and outcomes, and, perhaps most importantly, c) selecting, developing, and leading (influencing) the people who do the work

    So What?

    There is an almost overwhelming amount of available information and opinions on the topics of management, leadership, and management in comparison to leadership. I have provided some information and shared lots of professional and personal opinions. It would be great if others would jump in and engage in the dialogue. I do not doubt that my co-host, Julia, will have her own interesting and unique response to the topic.