Leadership and Management: What is the Difference?
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Leadership and Management

What is leadership, and what is the difference between leadership and management? In a nutshell, the difference is:

There is a lot of overlap between leadership and management. Often the two are part of the same role, because many leadership or management roles involve a combination of both - i.e. there is a continual adjustment of the direction (leadership) and controlling resources to pursue that direction (management).

Personality style is important part of both. You may have a particular leadership style that you tend to use. There are also different personality types in the group that you manage. You can explore both of these by completing our leadership and personality test.

Leadership Test

Differentiating leadership and management

If the difference between leadership and management is not clear, we can illustrate it by considering what happens when you have one without the other.

Leadership without management

...sets a direction or vision that others follow, without considering too much how the new direction is going to be achieved. Other people then have to work hard in the trail that is left behind, picking up the pieces and making it work. Eg: in Lord of the Rings, at the council of Elrond, Frodo Baggins rescues the council from conflict by taking responsibility for the quest of destroying the ring. He sets a direction, but most of the management of the group comes from others - particularly Gandalf and Aragorn.

Management without leadership

...controls resources to maintain the status quo or ensure things happen according to already-established plans. Eg: a referee manages a sports game, but does not usually provide "leadership" because there is no new change, no new direction. The referee is controlling resources to ensure that the laws of the game are followed.

Some potential confusions...

The absence of leadership should not be confused with the type of leadership that calls for 'no action' to be taken. For example, when Gandhi went on hunger strike and called for protests to stop, during the negotiations for India's independence, he demonstrated great leadership - because taking no action was a new direction for the Indian people at that time.

Also, what is often referred to as "participative management" can be a very effective form of leadership. In this approach, a new direction may seem to emerge from the group rather than the leader. However, the leader has facilitated that new direction whilst also engendering ownership within the group - i.e., it is an advanced form of leadership.

Sometimes, an individual may act as a figure head for change and be viewed as a leader even though he/she hasn't set any new direction. This can arise when a group sets a new direction of its own accord, and needs to express that new direction in the form of a symbolic leader. An example is Nelson Mandela whilst in prison:

Leadership and Management Summary

Leadership is about setting a new direction for a group; management is about directing and controlling according to established principles. However, someone can be a symbolic leader if they emerge as the spearhead of a direction the group sets for itself.

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