Leadership vs Management 05 April, 2011

Leadership vs Management

The words management and leadership both describe ways of dealing with people, but they underscore two very different ideals. At a high level, management deals with complexity by breaking up work. Leadership deals with change by applying a vision to everyone’s work.

A higher level of leadership would normally be found in the executive ranks of organizations. A higher level of management is usually found in the middle ranks of an organization. Finding the best mix of management and leadership for a person is extremely important. One reason for this is that the amount of supervision needed theoretically changes as you look higher towards C-suite positions. When less supervision is needed, there exists in subordinates attributes needed to make decisions. They need to be led more than they need to be managed.

Peter Drucker said “There is nothing more wasteful than becoming highly efficient at doing the wrong thing”. I would add that “There is nothing more frustrating than knowing you are on the right path, but getting nowhere”. Management is doing a thing right. Leadership is doing the right thing.

Although managing complexity can be hard, changing can be harder. John Kotter outlines an eight step change process that can help:
  • Create urgency
  • Form a group of advocates
  • Get the vision right
  • Communicate to get buy in
  • Empower action
  • Create short term wins
  • Don’t give up
  • Make change stick

Here is a comparison of leadership and management goals:


Can anyone be a leader?

Kouzes and Posner say that a leader must be able to:
  • Find your voice (your words must be consistent with your actions)
  • Affirm your values (what you care about – determined by how you spend your time)
  • Express yourself in your own way (others follow authenticity)
  • Challenge the process (experiment and grow)
  • Enable others to act
  • Encourage optimism

Formally, there are several academic frameworks for understanding leadership

Trait approach
This approach goes in and out of style every few years. It says that there are specific traits that define whether or not a person is a leader. Research shows that most of these traits can be learned. These traits drive decision making and generally include:
  • Drive
  • Extraversion
  • Integrity
  • Self-confidence
  • Knowledge of the business
  • The ability to read others

Behavioral approach
This approach is simply to focus on both project goals as well as team relationships. Finding the right balance of these two items determines the effectiveness of the leader. This approach can be seen in many aspects of the situational approach.

Situational approach
This approach to leadership says that universal leadership traits and behaviors don’t exist and you must look at the situation before deciding what to do.

Three popular situational models include the Vroom model, Fiedler analysis, and the Hersey/Blanchard theory.

1 - The Vroom model looks at situational attributes such as decision significance and where subjet matter experts are, assigning each one a status of high or low. A funnel method is then used to narrow down how the decision should be made (on a spectrum of autocratic to democratic). If more than one option seems to fit, use the one that will take the least amount of time.

2 - Fiedler analysis asks three questions and uses a funnel model similar to that of Vroom’s to determine if a leader’s decision should favor project goals or personal relationship maintenance. The three questions include the following:
Is the leader to other relationship good?
Is the task understood?
Does the leader have power?

3 - The Hersey/Blanchard theory looks at the maturity of individuals involved and decides whether to focus on project goals or personal relationship maintenance. It simply states that if a person or group has a low or high maturity, a focus should be placed on project goals. If, however, the person or group is of moderate maturity, a decision should focus on personal relationship maintenance.

With knowledge workers, helping everyone to exemplify a shared leadership is critical. It is often difficult to do everything by oneself. After all is said and done, I think one of the easiest ways to act is based on a statement I once heard “Help others fall into the pit of success”. Although oversimplified, this very well may sum up the way managers and leaders should act.

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