Management v. Leadership | Macro

Management v. Leadership


By Debra Ward, Managing Director, Macro

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about Creating a vision versus Delivering a vision.  Can one person really do both or is it imperative to keep them separate so they each maintain the integrity of their realm?  Those who are brilliant at delivery frequently define the visionaries as “wishy washy”,  “dreamers” or “fluffy”.  Those who are visionaries find deliverers boring, lacking imagination and risk adverse.  The outstanding organisations simply cannot exist and most certainly do not excel without both.  

As a thought provoker I thought I would share something I recently read.  The following is taken from A New Model of Leadership by Allan l. Scherr, 

In an excellent discussion of the issues, Zaleznik (1977) (followed by Kotter (1990) and Rost (1985, (1993)) emphasises the fundamental differences between management and leadership and the potential conflicts between them.  Kotter (1990, pp. 3-4) characterises management as “planning and budgeting”, “organizing and staffing”, and “controlling and problem solving”. More specifically he argues that management involves setting targets and goals, establishing detailed plans for reaching goals, allocating resources, establishing organisational structure, delegating authority and responsibility, monitoring results vs. plan, identifying deviations from plan, and planning and organising solutions. 

Building on Kotter’s insights, we conclude that management in its purest form is about minimising risk and maximising predictability and adherence to plan. 

In contrast, leadership deals with the unknown, the dreams, the vision that creates something new and heretofore unknown. Not surprisingly, what is seen as possible by one person is often deemed a pipe dream by another. Thus, it is unavoidable that the domain of leadership is one where the results to be produced are accompanied by significantly more risk and uncertainty (and often more controversy) than what is normally considered to be acceptable in the domain of pure management. 

Kotter (1990, pp. 5-7) defines leadership as consisting of the following three elements: 

  1. Establishing direction,
  2. Aligning people,
  3. Motivating and inspiring them -  (Keeping people moving in the right direction despite... barriers to change by appealing to basic, often untapped human needs, values and emotions”) 

Kotter has an insightful conclusion that leadership and management are potentially in conflict with each other - even though both are required for a well-functioning organisation. In Kotter’s words: 

“. . . even more fundamentally, leadership and management differ in terms of their primary function. The first can produce useful change, the second can create orderly results which keep something working efficiently. This does not mean that management is never associated with change; in tandem with effective leadership, it can help produce a more orderly change process. Nor does this mean that leadership is never associated with order; to the contrary, in tandem with effective management, an effective leadership process can help produce the changes necessary to bring a chaotic situation under control. 

But leadership by itself never keeps an operation on time and on budget year after year. And management by itself never creates significant useful change. Taken together, all of these differences in function and form create the potential for conflict. Strong leadership, for example, can disrupt an orderly planning system and undermine the management hierarchy, while strong management can discourage the risk taking and enthusiasm needed for leadership. Examples of such conflicts have been reported many times over the years, usually between individuals who personify only one of the two sets of processes: ‘pure managers’ fighting it or with ‘pure leaders.’” (Kotter (1990, p. 7 )) 

Is the conflict between leadership and management highlighted by Kotter important?  Potentially destructive if not handled properly? Critically useful? Creating this balance is not a trivial exercise. 

The tension created between pure management and pure leadership is useful because it is one source of locating and defining breakdowns. Management pulls for the predictable; leadership pulls for the vision. The two viewpoints must co-exist without one overpowering the other; otherwise, the breakdown disappears and therefore loses its power. 

So are some of us leaders and some of us managers?  Do we each possess a little of each within us that we can employ in certain situations?  In order to maintain a vision or a dream is it important to not get too involved in the management of attaining the vision for fear of having second thoughts and doubts… what do you think?  

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @MacroImpact

Follow Debra on Twitter