Management versus Leadership

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Management versus Leadership


This paper demystifies the concepts of leadership and management, which have long been the centre of heated controversy. The paper defines the terms leadership and management, and, from a linguistic standpoint, attempts to clarify why the two are so similar and yet so different. The paper elaborates, one by one, the differences between the two concepts. It delves into the particulars of what leadership involves vis-à-vis what management involves, bringing out the difference in as concise a way as possible. The paper then explains the similarity and interdependence of the two concepts. It briefly mentions the leader in history who is considered to have struck the delicate balance between the two concepts. Overall, the paper is essentially an attempt to present leadership and management as two distinct but interdependent concepts.

Management versus Leadership

Management and leadership are two closely related concepts, one stemming from, and dependent on, the other. However, the differences between management and leadership are profound, comprising both a technical and philosophical enigma. They have become the subject of debate which focuses on similarities between management and leadership. The debate continues to rage and draw sharp reactions and sharp interests among scholars.

In order to understand the differences between these two closely related phenomena, it is necessary to give the two terms clear-cut definitions first. The Third Edition of the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines the term ‘leader’ as ‘a person in control of a group, country or situation’. It goes ahead to define the term leadership as ‘the position or fact of being the leader’. The same dictionary defines the term management as ‘the control and organization of something’.

From the foregoing, it becomes apparent that from the linguistic standpoint, the terms leadership and management define quite closely related phenomena. They both define the quality of being in charge or being in control of something. The term ‘control’ is key to the definition of both terms. However, the definition of management has an additional word that is crucial to its understanding: organization. It is not possible to discuss the concept of management without heavy reliance on the term organization. Management of something begins with organizing it.

Leadership is a much broader term, referring to a more abstract state of being than management. It is more of an intangible quality than a quality on which one can place a finger.
Leadership is considered a higher calling than management, because of the way it achieves the same results that management is expected to achieve. Leadership is considered to be nobler than management because it evokes the ability to achieve over and above the planned objectives. Leadership is a transformational concept, while management is a transactional one. The form of energy that leadership employs is passion while that employed by management is control. Leadership is a proactive process, anticipating and responding to changes long before they take place. Management, on the other hand, is reactive. Any manager follows e set rules and standards to prevent foreseeable trouble, otherwise challenges find him off his guard. Therefore, leadership is arguably a nobler and more imperial calling as compared to management.

A manager is a person whose goal is to see the maximization of resources in an organization by ensuring that processes are carried out procedurally. The manager must be an excellent planner and executer of the plans that have been laid down. He or she must possess skills that enable him or her achieve the set goal effectively. Leadership is one of the crucial qualities that any manager must possess in order to achieve success. The goal of a leader, on the other hand, is to see the right thing done. The concern of the leader is not the procedures that have to be followed to achieve an objective. The leader is more concerned with the achievement of the objective itself than the processes that lead to its achievement. Leaders think in a radical way, they think of various approaches which may not necessarily be part of the laid down procedures, with the aim to enable his followers to attain a goal. In a nutshell, while the manager is concerned with doing things the right way, the leader is concerned with getting the right results without having to do wrong things.

While any manager has authority vested in him (or her) by the organization, a leader has authority that is vested in him or her by the people. People follow the leader, not because he or she has institutionally recognized powers, but because of the personal qualities he or she possesses. The leader is the person who seems to exercise his or her jurisdiction intuitionally and emotionally. The manager, in contrast, exercises his (or her) authority by a laid down set of rules. The leader finds the way, while the manager follows the way that other people found before him (or her) . While the manager wields formal authority, the leader boasts personal charisma that endears him to the followers. Thus, people tend to follow the leader rather than the manager.

In a singularly fundamental sense, the difference between the leader and the manager lies in their originality. The manager is a custodian of ideas and processes that were laid down a long time back. On the other hand, the leader is an original entity, churning out new ideas, new methods and new procedures of doing things all the time (Murray 2010, p.234). The leader handles situations that have never been encountered before, demystifies possibilities that have never been explored before, and is more receptive to change than the manager, whose duty is to guarantee that the status quo is maintained. Thus, the leader is viewed as an original, while the manager is considered a copy.

The leader and the manager differ on yet another significant point: the focus of their activities. The leader’s interest is centered on people, while that of the manager is centered on a task. While the leader seeks to harness the potential of people in order to achieve an objective, the manager’s aim is to ensure that the work is done in a predetermined way so as to achieve the objective. That is why leaders are said to be inspirational while managers are believed to be authoritative. The manager makes the worker complete a task, while the leader inspires the worker to complete the same task. According to Bertocci (2009), leaders employ the non-coercive approach to influence a group to accomplish tasks. On the other hand, managers focus more on the completion of the task than the satisfaction of the workers; they would likely employ any means within their power to ensure that the task is completed.

Despite the fact some find it difficult to separate leadership from management, they are not two parallel concepts. The time is past when an employer would surpass leadership qualities and employ a manager on grounds of knowledge alone. Today, employers look for people who possess the whole package. Management involves a lot of new challenges every so often. In this context, versatility is a tool that proves immensely beneficial to managers in any field. Leadership is essential in making proper management decisions and establishing appropriate management practices. Managers not only uphold company statutes, but also exercise discretion and inspire those who work under them (Baldoni 2008, p. 191). Thus, management and leadership must go hand in hand.

On the other hand, leadership must employ management skills. Leadership is inspirational, motivational and has a prominent emotional aspect to it. However, achieving set goals is not solely dependent on intuition and impulsiveness. Most of the time, achieving a set goal involves careful thought, planning and putting in place machinery that would execute the laid down plans in an effective way (DuBrin 2012, p. 76). It therefore calls on everyone who holds a leadership position to acquire appropriate organizational skills, and this is what constitutes management. Leaders cannot rely on inspiration alone. They must at times act firm and play by the given set of rules. The whole juggling act between conforming to set standards and acting upon wisdom that is not backed by any law is what constitutes a strong leader.

People who make the best leaders owe their legacies to a combination of inspirational leadership styles and unmatched organizational prowess. The history of the greatest leaders is that they were people who worked with laid down strategies, and when those strategies failed, they turned to the ever-dependable power of inspiration to draw out success from depths that seemed unreachable. Winston Churchill is widely considered an inspiration behind the success of the Allied Powers in the Second World War. He employed a combination of exceptional leadership qualities and management styles that kept the British in high spirits and on the winning side almost for the whole period of the war. Winston Churchill is just an example of leaders who combined exceptional leadership qualities and management strategies that ensured success in a situation that had seemingly insurmountable challenges. History is riddled with such leaders, and it is clear that the best leadership is the one that combines the faculties of organizational ability and inspirational capacity (Sandys & Littman 2004, p.56).

In conclusion, leadership and management are two entities that can be considered separately, but they possess an intimate connection. Management has leadership as one of its fundamental elements, and leadership, on its part, must incorporate proper management skills to succeed. The differences and similarities of the two concepts are, therefore, key to functional understanding of the concepts of leadership and management.

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