The Difference Between Leadership And Management

“Management is a profession; leadership is a condition.”
Tom Peters, business author

In essence, Peters was saying that managers and leaders act differently. True enough. But I would add that managers and leaders serve different purposes as well. And both are needed in every organization.

So what’s the difference? Let me give you a portion of the checklist I give my clients when I’m delivering my program on “Peak Performance: Motivating The Best In Others.”

=> 1. Leaders create the vision. Managers implement the vision.

Leaders look into the future and “see” a better, brighter way. They create a positive vision, and they lead the charge toward that vision with a spirit of optimism.

Wayne Ferch, the CEO of Feather River Hospital in Paradise, California, talks about that. In fact his hospital is so outstanding that my step-mother actually goes to this hospital … rather than the hospital in her local town … when she needs medical attention. Ferch says, “Great leaders lead with optimism … even when they don’t feel optimistic. In fact, if a leader is positive about the future … and the staff buys into that vision … there is a good chance of success, but no guarantee. However, if the leader is negative about the future … and the staff picks up that negativity … it is guaranteed that there will be no success.”

So the leader has to do more than simply “create” the vision. He has to “instill” the vision. Or she has to help others “catch” the vision by using a variety of communication tools.

Chuck Truza, one of the distinguished leaders of the highly respected Institute for Management Studies, has learned that. He says, “An effective leader has the ability to VIVIDLY share his vision of a worthy goal with others.” How true. In fact, I suspect the winner of almost every Presidential election has been the one who has done the finest job of VIVIDLY sharing his vision for a bigger, better, and brighter future.

So yes, leaders create the vision. But managers implement the vision. The rubber hits the road when managers organize their resources and make sure things get done that are in line with the leader’s vision.

=> 2. Leaders are a force for change. Managers are a force for continuity.

Even though leaders start with vision, they know that vision in and of itself is not enough. In fact, so-called leaders who have nothing more than vision are known as blowhards. They’re all talk and no action.

No, leaders are also a force for change. One of the pre-eminent doctors in America, Dr. Nicholas La Russo, the director for Center for Innovation at the Mayo Clinic teaches that. He says, “The most effective leaders are pragmatic visionaries … they not only see where they need to go but they figure out how to get there.”

Of course that’s not easy. Visionary talk is always cheaper than a track record of success after success and accomplishment after accomplishment.

To be a force for change, leaders have to add perseverance and integrity to their vision. Jean Rush, the president of CIGNA, one of the most successful medicare providers in the country, says, “In today’s world, a successful leader must have perseverance and integrity: perseverance to weather the multitude of challenges that confront companies and individuals today, and integrity so people trust their leader to do the right things for the right reasons.”

Whereas leaders are a force for change, managers are a force for continuity. And both are needed. Jack Welch, the former chairman of the General Electric Company, knows that better than most people. He says, “A manager controls things, keeps them in channels, builds and respects boundaries between functions and ranks, and stays within internal and external company walls.” Indeed, without that force for continuity, organizations would fall into chaos and eventually self-destruct.

=> 3. Leaders empower people. Managers coach people.

As noted in one of the Successories’ posters, “True leaders are the first to see the need, envision the plan, and EMPOWER the team for action.” They believe in their team members’ ability to actualize the vision, and they encourage their team members to move forward and do it. In other words, they MOTIVATE their followers.

And one of the ways leaders motivate their followers is by putting the limelight on them. They don’t hog all the glory and attention for themselves. As the Successories’ poster goes on to say, “True leaders are not those who strive to be first but those who are first to strive and who give their all for the success of the team.”

Bruce Halbasch, the vice president of Kraus Anderson Construction, puts it this way. He says, “A successful leader creates a working environment that truly MOTIVATES people to do the best job possible. A successful leader … who regularly communicates with his people … who demonstrates respect for individuals and appreciation for their work … will build an organization that is well positioned to capitalize on opportunities to grow their business … even when the times are tough.”

So yes, leaders motivate their followers. But motivation without education serves no useful purpose. Without some training and some skills, the followers may not be capable of actualizing the vision.

That’s where managers come in. Managers are needed to make sure the followers get all the product knowledge they need, learn all the necessary procedures, and master the soft skills that are critical to every organization’s success. Managers do all that as well as coach and nudge their team mates towards higher levels of performance and better overall results.

=> 4. Leaders build relationships. Managers build projects.

General Douglas McArthur knew that. As one of the great U.S. generals in World War II, he was able to elicit tremendous loyalty from his troops. And he was able to win extraordinary victories because of their loyalty.

In trying to understand the key to McArthur’s highly effective leadership, William Manchester studied McArthur in depth and eventually summarized his findings in his book, “The American Caesar.” He said McArthur “adored” his troops. He respected them, believed in them, talked to them, listened to them, and built relationships with them.

Larry Bossidy, the chairman of the Honeywell Corporation, even got specific about it. He said executives who build consistent performance cultures have six things in common. One of those is knowing their people. Bossidy said, “If CEO’s are going to promote people, they ought to know at least the top 500 people in the company.” Leaders make relationship building a priority.

Of course, managers have to build relationships and teams as well. It’s a part of the way they get things done. But the ultimate priorities for the manager are planning, organizing, and executing. They have to build and complete projects by planning out schedules, organizing teams, and executing certain actions.

There’s the old cliché that says “It takes two to tango.” And that’s especially true in organizations. We need both leaders and managers.

But perhaps we should change the cliché to say “It takes three to tango.” We need all those coworkers out there to be on the same team as the leaders and manager to get anything done. More about that in another “Tuesday Tip.”

Action:  Look at the four things a leader does. And then take a look at how well you do those four things. Give a #1 to the item you are best at and #4 to the item you most need to improve.