Print Email Download Reference This Send to Kindle Reddit This
submit to reddit

The difference between management and leadership

Management and leadership are critical elements in the ongoing success of any business. Yet, there has been, and continues to be, a long standing debate over whether good management or good leadership is more important and holds more value to a company’s success. Each of these topics have been both written about, and discussed, heavily over the years and drawn countless opinions from both sides about each one’s importance

Some believe that ‘management’ hold’s greater importance because of its reliability and stability, and tends to deal the daily results and performance while others believe that leadership is most critical because it is believed to deal with higher thinking and creativity relying on an individuals character traits, does not appear to be teachable, seems to be inherent in some people and not others, and is responsible for setting direction and laying out the pathway that a business will follow. In the opinion of this writer trying to set one above the other is a flawed approach and that those who hold these ideas have yet to come to the realization that management and leadership are two sides of the same coin. Without one the other is incomplete, and it is a balance of each of these in varying measures at varying times that will yield success.

Both good management and good leadership represent very different traits within people and it is a combination of these traits that is necessary for both individual and company performance. This becomes more evident after carefully examining the arguments for both management and leadership, the different traits and characteristics that managerial and leadership ability possess, and how each contribute to positive outcomes. When these traits are put in the context of a crisis situation it becomes apparent how vital both are to the result.

Management has long been considered by many organizations to be the most important aspect of an organization. This is why many organizations find that defined and structured management practices are more useful than leadership because it focuses on the structure of an organization, where as leadership is more focused on social interactions and innovation (the so-called big picture), whose outcomes many times are unknown, thus making them a little instable (Kearsley, 2005). For this reason many managers use innovation not to change how things are done, but to improve the ability of its people and its resources control to improve its efficiency (Elliott, 2002). This becomes useful in the day to day activities placing leadership as a secondary contributor. Still, in a changing society and marketplace where organizations are forced to constantly evolve effective leadership that can develop and communicate a vision becomes a necessity to not only compete, but excel both today and in the future.

Managements focus has mainly been in administrative duties such as the what and when, where as leadership is more imaginative and emotional, which focuses on the why and how (Kearsley, 2005). The why and how the questions are the ones needed to find innovated new ways of doing things, which will assist them in developing and keeping a competitive advantage. A challenge because even though the outcomes of the innovations of leadership can at times be questionable they are essential to an organization especially when the work environment becomes unstable and innovation can assist an organization adapt.

What accentuates the need for leadership even more than maintaining a competitive edge is the fact that it in today’s society the hierarchical aspect of organizations have become more intricate and ones superior (manager) has become less defined (Rogers & Tierney, 2004). As such, leadership becomes important in the completion of tasks especially with the heavy emphasis placed upon a groups successful performance within an organization today and a leaders ability to form a group into a cohesive unit. Before this hierarchical change there was a specific top down flow to an organization so that only those at the top needed leadership abilities because everyone else followed what they said, so management was more important to the organization. Now that we compete globally this dynamic has changed and control cannot be achieved without having a more flexible approach to management and leadership as a result of the expanding environment they have come to be in. In this way leadership has developed into a more significant and critical aspect relative to that of management because leaders “don’t control; they influence” (Rogers & Tierney, 2004, p. 79). This goes beyond the scope of good management. Management is supposed to maintain a set structure within an organization through the use of control. If control has become less attainable, and stifles the flexibility of a company to effectively adapt and innovate then one now needs to be able to exact influence rather than control an organization and must adapt to continue to be a viable enterprise. This represents one reason as to the necessity for both management and leadership in cooperation to yield success. Management sets what must be done and leadership helps them accomplish that despite a lack of direct control. This effectively debunks the argument in favor of management over leadership. But, what about the arguments supporting the value of leadership and its role to the organization?

Many hold the idea that leadership is more important to an organization. One argument in favor of this idea is that education. They believe that leadership is inherent and can’t be taught. Leadership has been likened to that of a “pathfinder”. Being innovators they are searching for something never before done and as such they have nothing from which to learn from (Hodgson, 1987, p. 13). Innovation is creativity, you aren’t taught it you just know it. In a sense this is true, most scholars readily agree that leadership is based upon experience, but many fail to realize that experiences can be taught. When looked at in the form of learning a sport a person can study the rules of a sport and it will help their understanding of the game, but to be truly good at something it is necessary to go out and play (Doh, 2003). So, the key to teaching leadership is to put people in situations where they are forced to lead. But, a person must understand that teaching can only go so far and just because you have been taught something doesn’t mean you will be a master at it, nor does it mean that you’ll successfully administer leadership (Doh, 2003). When dealing with people a leader faces diverse challenges in personality and capability and their ability to be flexible and provide both the direction and opportunity for those under their influence to be successful and feel they are contributing is critical to the success of the endeavor. An example would be that many people have been taught how to play chess, but even though they know how to play doesn’t mean they are going to masters (Doh, 2003).

Another argument in favor of leadership is that it can be seen a “form of social problem solving” in that it is necessary in resolving conflict within to help direct it along the path that management has set down to reach an organizations goal making leadership and management necessary for an organization to achieve its goal (DeChurch et al.,2011, p. 153). But this is only half what defines the necessity of both aspect within an organization. It is also necessary to consider the views of time that each aspect takes. That management “has its eye always on the bottom line, the leader has his eye on the horizon” meaning management focuses on the present and leadership focuses on the future (Kearsley, 2005, p. 265). It is necessary for an organization to have both if it wants to be successful. This can be examined within the firefighter, firelighter debate within the ‘Leadership Debate’. This debate explains that management within a project takes the stance of a firefighter with regards to its problems, only facing them when they occur, where as leadership takes the firelighter approach in that they try to anticipate and prevent problems from occurring (Leadership, 2005). When looking at the two one could say the author believes the firelighter is the more desirable approach in by focusing on the future and preventing problems from occurring could increase efficiency and success, but this is only useful so far as problems can be predicted or anticipated, which in a fairly unpredictable world is generally difficult. As such it is necessary to also hold not only the leadership approach, but management approach as well because if a person fails in predicting a problem the management approach is able to account for this failure and more expediently correct the problem. A study done by the British Royal Navy in the effort to find management and leaderships effect on performance showed that leadership characteristics were more emotional in nature while managements were more “impersonal” and focused on “order and consistency to complex operations”, but neither alone brought about top performers, but a blend of both were “necessary for the success in an increasingly complex and volatile business environment” (Young & Dulewicz, 2008, p. 28). From this study it can be extrapolated that managerial and leadership approaches are counterpoints within a business. This becomes apparent when looking at organizations’ within a time of crisis.

When examining an organization in a time of crisis one must focus on the managerial aspect, which are the operations and contingency plans, as well as the leading aspect which focuses more on people and emotion. In looking at leadership in a crisis it becomes twofold because many see a crisis as an opportunity to change; as such leadership must first stabilize the organization so they can adapt to the crisis (Heifetz, Grashow &Linsky, 2009). This is contrary to the view held by management that a crisis is in fact an emergency and a company needs to make an effort to weather the burdens. In this way leadership becomes a necessity in a crisis due to its ability to cope with social pressures. In a time of crisis when an organization is forced to adapt there are many conflicting emotions within the workers. A leader has the capability to “orchestrate the inevitable conflict, chaos, and confusion of change so that the disturbance is productive rather than destructive”, which will enable the organization to work as a cohesive unit to further their goals (Heifetz, et al., 2009, p. 66). This is possible because those who possess leadership capabilities tend to possess “emotional intelligence”, which enables them to understand their own emotions and control them. As a result they can better empathize with others members of the organization (Young & Dulewicz, 2008, p. 26). This helps gain loyalty and trust towards a leader, improving their ability to work towards a common goal. Despite the necessity for leadership during a crisis management is just as important as change being an adaptation of an organization’s original practices rather than a complete overhaul of their practices (Heifetz, et al., 2009). A good example of this is when 'Best Buy' changed its strategy to one established in store boutiques to better capture the female buyers interest rather than solely focusing on the male buyer in an effort to avoid a looming crisis (Heifetz, et al., 2009). They were effective because despite a drastic change the majority of the overall business scheme was left intact and the manager who put this ups the ability to effectively convince others that it was necessary and gains their support to follow through. However, not all change occurs in time to prevent a crisis. In such instances an organized plan, which is constantly monitored for flaws, is necessary to ensure transitional ease throughout this period of adaptation. This is the idea of a contingency plan; which can only be successful through the application of skilled management.

Contingency plans are necessary during a crisis because that occasion is usually “characterized by complexity and dynamism” (Elliott, 2002, p. 146). This complexity makes it difficult to enact change unless an organization has made preparation in case of troubles to lessen the affect felt by the crisis and to support these changes throughout the crisis. This explains the necessity for a “systematic approach for dealing with real crises so that the organization continues to function normally in most of its operations” (Keefe & Darling, 2005, p. 49). In order to achieve this goal it is necessary to have administrative skills, which can only exist within good management skills. Also due to necessity of a flexible nature of a contingency plan they must be constantly updated to account for a changing environment (Mitome, Speere & Swift, 2001). This requires someone to constantly monitor the plan to ensure it is up to date and / or make effective changes and adaptations to the plan as required and communicate them to the organization without interfering in daily operational activities.

As has already been stated leadership is useful for social interaction and decisiveness, through the use of innovation. As such it is lacking in the necessary qualities to set up and maintain a contingency plan. However contingency plans are not solely managerial functions. Two problems found within an organizations contingency plan require the additional support of leadership abilities in order to fix. The first was because the chaotic environment and unpredictability of a crisis made it very difficult to build a contingency plan that could cover every eventuality. Resulting in necessity to keep the plan flexible so that it is possible, no matter the situation, a plan could be adapted to suit whatever need (Mitome et al., 2001). This flexibility makes leadership necessary so that in the case of crisis the organization can be decisive in it’s adjustments, thus decreasing the time of adaptation.

As has already been stated leaders are “pathfinders” (Hodgson, 1987, p. 13). So during a time of crisis when things are unknown it is up to a leader to see the solutions and managers to follow that solution they are give. This would hopefully enable an organization to return to normal business practices in a timely manner. The other problem is in how contingency plans are used during a time of crisis. It is common for organization to use small teams to find a solution for their problem “because, generally, they outperform individuals” (Elliott, 2002, p. 148). This makes it necessary to have a leader who can unify the team to a common goal and improve the coherence of team members to quicken the development of a solution. Without a leader to coalesce the efforts of management in a directed problem solving approach any answer might be delayed and result in a sub-optimal conclusion.

It becomes quite apparent the necessity for both leadership and management are necessary within a crisis situation because “they must develop “next practices” while excelling at today’s best practices” (Heifetz, et al., 2009, p.65). In other words management is important because it can help prepare for crisis helping to minimize the damage it causes and through the continuation of normal practices so that the organization still has the ability to develop next generation practices. The importance of management and leadership in a time of crisis can be seen by the failure in relief distribution in the aftermath of the Haiti Earthquake which resulted because of the lack of a contingency plan that took into account the conflicts that could arise between various authorities and agencies and determine ways to prevent them. This still might have been prevented, but if not for the lack of leadership within the organization which failed to come to an agreement (Piotrowski, 2010). This shows that both a strong contingency plan and leadership abilities is needed because if the contingency plan is strong everything is planned and little can go wrong, but in the case that it fails leadership can minimize the damage.

It has become clear of the necessity for both management and leadership. The comparison between a leader being a pathfinder and management being a path follower is in part true (Hodgson, 1987). But managements do not merely follow a path they reinforce it and improve its foundation enabling leadership to continue to grow. Their relationship is similar to that of a building. Leadership goes up, while management builds within. If a company was devoid of effective leadership it may not be able to maintain a competitive position within the market place through the effective identification and development of plans, strategies, tactics and business acumen to target positive results. And, without effective management a leader’s vision, ideas, and direction may not be sustainable which might limit a businesses long term competitive position and success. The reason being that leadership is within focus of people while management is the focus administrative duties. An organization needs both leadership and management to be effective just like Yin and Yang to provide balance to the ongoing performance within an organization. While leadership provides vision, resources, and communication management provides execution identifies challenges and opportunities and communicates both throughout the company, and back-up to the leaders who can in fact adapt plans and direction continuously for success.

Print Email Download Reference This Send to Kindle Reddit This

Share This Essay

To share this essay on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ just click on the buttons below:

Request Removal

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have the essay published on the UK Essays website then please click on the link below to request removal:

Request the removal of this essay.


More from UK Essays

Doing your resits? We can help!