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Leadership vs. Management

 

Disciplines > Leadership > Leadership vs. Management

Managers have subordinates | Leaders have followers | See also

 

What is the difference between management and leadership? It is a question that has been asked more than once and also answered in different ways. The biggest difference between managers and leaders is the way they motivate the people who work or follow them, and this sets the tone for most other aspects of what they do.

Many people, by the way, are both. They have management jobs, but they realize that you cannot buy hearts, especially to follow them down a difficult path, and so act as leaders too.

Managers have subordinates

By definition, managers have subordinates - unless their title is honorary and given as a mark of seniority, in which case the title is a misnomer and their power over others is other than formal authority.

Authoritarian, transactional style

Managers have a position of authority vested in them by the company, and their subordinates work for them and largely do as they are told. Management style is transactional, in that the manager tells the subordinate what to do, and the subordinate does this not because they are a blind robot, but because they have been promised a reward (at minimum their salary) for doing so.

Work focus

Managers are paid to get things done (they are subordinates too), often within tight constraints of time and money. They thus naturally pass on this work focus to their subordinates.

Seek comfort

An interesting research finding about managers is that they tend to come from stable home backgrounds and led relatively normal and comfortable lives. This leads them to be relatively risk-averse and they will seek to avoid conflict where possible. In terms of people, they generally like to run a 'happy ship'.

Leaders have followers

Leaders do not have subordinates - at least not when they are leading. Many organizational leaders do have subordinates, but only because they are also managers. But when they want to lead, they have to give up formal authoritarian control, because to lead is to have followers, and following is always a voluntary activity.

Charismatic, transformational style

Telling people what to do does not inspire them to follow you. You have to appeal to them, showing how following them will lead to their hearts' desire. They must want to follow you enough to stop what they are doing and perhaps walk into danger and situations that they would not normally consider risking.

Leaders with a stronger charisma find it easier to attract people to their cause. As a part of their persuasion they typically promise transformational benefits, such that their followers will not just receive extrinsic rewards but will somehow become better people.

People focus

Although many leaders have a charismatic style to some extent, this does not require a loud personality. They are always good with people, and quiet styles that give credit to others (and takes blame on themselves) are very effective at creating the loyalty that great leaders engender.

Although leaders are good with people, this does not mean they are friendly with them. In order to keep the mystique of leadership, they often retain a degree of separation and aloofness.

This does not mean that leaders do not pay attention to tasks - in fact they are often very achievement-focused. What they do realize, however, is the importance of enthusing others to work towards their vision.

Seek risk

In the same study that showed managers as risk-averse, leaders appeared as risk-seeking, although they are not blind thrill-seekers. When pursuing their vision, they consider it natural to encounter problems and hurdles that must be overcome along the way. They are thus comfortable with risk and will see routes that others avoid as potential opportunities for advantage and will happily break rules in order to get things done.

A surprising number of these leaders had some form of handicap in their lives which they had to overcome. Some had traumatic childhoods, some had problems such as dyslexia, others were shorter than average. This perhaps taught them the independence of mind that is needed to go out on a limb and not worry about what others are thinking about you.

In summary

This table summarizes the above (and more) and gives a sense of the differences between being a leader and being a manager. This is, of course, an illustrative characterization, and there is a whole spectrum between either ends of these scales along which each role can range. And many people lead and manage at the same time, and so may display a combination of behaviors.

 

Subject

Leader

Manager

Essence Change Stability
Focus Leading people Managing work
Have Followers Subordinates
Horizon Long-term Short-term
Seeks Vision Objectives
Approach Sets direction  Plans detail
Decision Facilitates Makes
Power Personal charisma Formal authority
Appeal to Heart Head
Energy Passion Control
Culture Shapes Enacts
Dynamic Proactive Reactive
Persuasion Sell Tell
Style Transformational Transactional
Exchange Excitement for work Money for work
Likes Striving Action
Wants Achievement Results
Risk Takes Minimizes
Rules Breaks Makes
Conflict Uses Avoids
Direction New roads Existing roads
Truth Seeks Establishes
Concern What is right Being right
Credit Gives Takes
Blame Takes Blames

 

See also

Power, Risk bias, Self vs. Others preference, Followership

 

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