It is fundamental to have a Leadership versus Management clear-cut distinction.

Out of all the distinctions that I’ve seen in my career, the one that I’ve found most useful and practical is John Kotters’ distinction (“Leading Change” HBSP, Boston, MA: 1996).

According to him, the main three things that the manager does are:

  • Plans and budgets (the manager sets up timetables to achieve results, and allocates needed resources for execution)
  • Organizes and staffs (the manager sets up structures to achieve the plan, staffs the structure, delegates authority to execute the plan, provides policies and procedures to guide the staff, and creates systems to monitor the execution)
  • Controls and solves problems (the manager keeps an eye on outcomes, detects variations from the plan, and plans and organizes to correct such variations)

    Hence, the essence of management is predictability and order – to produce short-term results – for customers, for stockholders, etc.

    In contrast, the main three things that the leader does are:

  • Establishes direction (the leader develops a vision and the necessary strategy for achieving such vision)
  • Aligns people (the leader communicates the direction in such a way that all those whose cooperation is needed, understand it, accept it, and act upon it)
  • Motivates and inspires (the leader helps people to overcome barriers to change, by satisfying basic human needs)

    Hence, the essence of leadership is change – to produce long-term results – like new breakthrough products, new markets, etc.

    Management deals mostly with the status quo – the existing state of affairs.
    Leadership deals mostly with change – the future state of affairs.

    Structures and systems are tools that managers tend to use more.
    Culture and vision are tools that leaders tend to use more.

    Management deals more with the immediate future.
    Leadership deals more with the long-term future.

    I repeat: Leadership versus Management, what does it boil down to?
    - The essence of management is predictability and order.
    - The essence of leadership is change.

    –––~~~••• O •••~~~–––

    Another Leadership versus Management distinction:

  • The higher up you are in the organization, the more you must behave as a leader.
  • The lower down you are in the organization, the more you must behave as a manger.

    The CEO must behave most of the time as a leader – if s/he doesn’t, s/he is placing his/her organization at risk, especially now-days with the increasing rate of change.

    The first-time manager must behave most of the time as a manager – however, this does NOT mean that there is no room for leadership behaviors in a first-time managerial role. On the contrary: It is vital that distributed leadership be present throughout the organization.

    –––~~~••• O •••~~~–––

    Another useful distinction that gives clarity to the Leadership versus Management discussion is the one made by Marcus Buckingham (“The One Thing You Need to Know: … About Great Managing, Great Leadership, and Sustained Individual Success” Free Press, New York, NY: 2005)

    The roles of the manager and the roles of the leader are undeniably complex. Without denying this complexity, Buckingham embarked on a search to find out what is the one deep insight that underpins the leadership versus management roles respectively, and that all great managers and all great leaders do. As a result of his research, he affirms the following:

  • If you want to be a truly great manager, you must discover what is unique about each person you manage, and capitalize on it.
  • If you want to be a truly great leader, you must discover what is universal about the people you lead, and capitalize on it.

    –––~~~••• O •••~~~–––


    These distinctions in the leadership versus management discussion should help you gain clarity with your organizational roles and responsibilities, with your organizational design, and most of all, with your management and leadership practice.

    If you would like to learn about leadership versus management through my speaking, training or consulting services, please click on this link.

    To learn about the skills you need to manage the performance of your direct reports, go to my Management Skills page.

    To learn about the skills you need to lead the performance of your entire organization, go to my Leadership Skills page.

    To learn about other useful skills, go to my More Skills page.

    Click here to see additional differences between Leadership and Management.

    You will find "Leader Newsletter" very practical & useful too.
    Please click here to read the back issues.
    Enter your email to subscribe:
    First Name (optional):

    Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
    I promise to use it only to send you Leader Newsletter.

    Good Leadership Skills

    Bookmark and Share

  • To receive
    Educational Leadership Articles subscribe to “Leader Newsletter” at no cost to you (read the back issues here) and you will also receive a complimentary Special Report that will allow you to create a powerful VISION for organizational alignment and peak performance.

    Enter your email to get
    access immediately to
    "Leader Newsletter"
    First name – optional:

    Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
    I promise to use it only to send you Leader Newsletter.

    See my Privacy Policy