Leadership vs. Management

What every effective leader must understand

mgmt_leadership-vennThe 80’s was the modern age of management theory. Participative management like Theory Z; Total Quality Management (TQM); Management by Walking Around (MBWA); Management by Objective (MBO); and employee empowerment were taught in every business program. As a young leader, I struggled to understand the difference between management and leadership.

Numerous books have been written to address the difference between managers and leaders. Warren Bennis stated “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things” (as cited in Osland, Kolb, Rubin, & Turner, 2007). Bennis’s quote captures the essence of the difference. Management is the process of defining and measuring success. Managers control and deploy resources to solve problems. In addition, managers:

  • Plan
  • Budget
  • Organize
  • Staff

They produce order, predictability, and expected results by stakeholders (Osland, Kolb, Rubin, & Turner, 2007).

In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Maxwell discusses the difference between management and leadership. Maxwell states “the main difference between the two is that leadership is about influencing people to follow, while management focuses on maintaining systems and process (2007, p.13)

Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be lead”
– Ross Perot


  • Provide the vision
  • Align individuals with vision
  • Motivate and inspire
  • Change

Leadership is not a destination; it is developed daily, not in a day. Effective leaders continue to grow and hone their skills. According to Kouzes and Posner, “leadership is inextricably connected with the process of innovation, of bringing new ideas, methods, or solution into use” (2007, p. 165).

Managers can maintain direction; however leaders can change it (Maxwell). In today’s complex world, effective leaders must understand the difference in order for the organization to achieve its full potential.

Your friend,

Dr. Kim Moore

Kim d. moore

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