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Management vs Leadership

Updated on December 3, 2014

The Ideal Boss

37% of survey respondents said they would want Oprah as their boss, 35% would want Barack Obama, and only 8% would want Simon Cowell.

Source: Adecco

Management and leadership represent two different aspects of authority and decision making in business.

What are the main differences between management and leadership, and how can you enhance the management and leadership qualities in your organization?

Unsatisfied workers

One third to two thirds of workers surveyed around the world and in the US say they are unsatisfied with their jobs.

Source: Forbes

Management and leadership differences

Leaders focus on concepts, principles and mission, while managers focus on details, specific objectives and established rules and procedures. Leaders tend to think about strategic issues in the context of the long term, managers are interested in tactical issues in the short term. Both are essential. Effective management will ensure the short term survival of an organization by getting things done in a predictable and reliable way. Strong leadership will deliver thriving and growth over time by harnessing change and unpredictability.


Characteristics of good leaders and managers

Good leaders are charismatic, visionary and inspirational. They set bold and challenging goals and look for commitment and talent in their followers. Good managers are detail-oriented, calm under pressure and hold to established precedents. They set attainable objectives that will push the organization forward in the short and medium term, and look for results from their subordinates.

An international survey found that American companies are the best managed in the world. They consistently rank highly in incentivizing and rewarding good workers and eliminating bad ones. They also set attainable targets, communicate well with workers, and monitor processes and results.

Too much of one or the other

Just as both management and leadership are necessary for every enterprise, too much or too little of either will be detrimental.

Excessive emphasis on management will lead to a high amount of bureaucratization, over-emphasis on rules and procedures, and inability to think outside of the box. It often results in a failure to innovate and see new opportunities or threats. Too much management and not enough leadership produces a stuffy, rigid, unresponsive organization that is narrowly focused on maintaining the status quo.

On the other hand, too much leadership and not enough management will produce an organization of dreamers who are always coming up with the next big idea without effectively following through. In the absence of decent management, chaos and instability will be the norm. There will be plenty of goals, principles and grandiose vision, but day-to-day operations will be aimless, poorly thought out and poorly executed.

Management quotes

A manager is responsible for the application and performance of knowledge. - Peter Drucker

Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig. - Paul Dickson

People are your most valuable asset. Only people can be made to appreciate in value. - Brian Tracy

The kind of people I look for to fill top management spots are the eager beavers, the mavericks. These are the guys who try to do more than they're expected to do and always reach. - Lee Iacocca

Improving management

Management requires clearly defined rules, procedures and objectives. Managers must hold to these and execute them reliably. Managers must be fully knowledgeable of the tasks that need to be accomplished and how to complete them. They should have working knowledge of the details of their subordinates' assignments. Managers must have a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their subordinates, and the team as a whole.

Experience can make a big difference in management, more so than in leadership. Experience prepares the manager for countless situations and challenges, large and small, that will arise. Past experience managing other teams, other companies, or working in a non-managerial position within the same department are all very helpful.


Leadership quotes

To lead people, walk beside them … As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!' - Lao Tzu

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. - Steve Jobs

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. - John F. Kennedy

I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people. - Mahatma Gandhi

Improving leadership

Leadership is one of the toughest skills to acquire. Some believe that leaders are born and not developed. In fact, learning the key qualities of leadership, and studying successful leaders, enables almost anybody to become an effective leader.

Leadership requires an innovative spirit that allows one to think outside of the box and entertain new ideas. A leader must always be thinking ahead, considering new potential opportunities and challenges that may be coming. They must be strategic thinkers with a clear understanding of the company's place in the industry and changing tastes in the market. Above all, leaders need to exhibit a strong dedication to the organization and its mission. That commitment inspires followers more than any other quality, and is indispensable when confronting countless challenges.


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    • secularist10 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from New York City

      Thanks, Michememe. Great point. People do their best work when roles are defined, and they are in the right role for their talents and skills.

    • michememe profile image

      Miche Wro 

      6 years ago

      I know a few people who could benefit from this article. On my previous job, we were all considered leaders,any poistion that was not at entry level. However, not every one is a leader. You defined the two roles well.

    • NetBlots profile image


      6 years ago from Melbourne

      Wow.. that ideal boss thing must have been answered by a bunch of incompetent idiots! hahaha

      I bet Opera would be a real ball buster behind the scenes!


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