For years (at least all my leadership years) there has been an ongoing debate/discussion regarding the difference between managing and leading. There is a difference and it makes a difference in understanding it. Leadership guru Dan Rockwell shares insight on why both are important and how they can go hand in glove.

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell

You’re not managing just because you run meetings or have a title.

You might own the place, but that doesn’t make you a leader.

Think of leadership and management as distinct ways of showing up.

Manager or leader:

John Kotter’s book, “That’s Not How We Do it Here!” is a fable that addresses tension between the divergent functions of management and leadership. The following lists are inspired by his work.

You’re managing when you:

  1. Plan and budget.
  2. Solve day-to-day problems.
  3. Track processes and measure results.
  4. Hire, fire, and concern yourself with job descriptions.

You’re leading when you:

  1. Set direction.
  2. Align people.
  3. Inspire.
  4. Seize opportunities.

Insights from Warren Bennis:

“Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.”

  1. You’re managing when you concern yourself with how and when questions.
  2. You’re leading when you concern yourself with what and why questions.

Over-led organizations end up chaotic.

Over-managed organizations end up bureaucratic.

Which is better:

Leaders need managers and managers need leaders. It’s a matter of context. 

  1. Leaders drive change.
  2. Managers require stability to deliver results reliably.

Small organizations in stable environments need manager-leaders. But you can’t manage your way out of a crisis.

Chaotic organizations need management.

Stagnant organizations need leadership.

Vision is a fundamental distinction:

Managers concern themselves with execution. Leaders concern everyone with purpose and direction – vision.

Ask management to craft a vision and they make a five-year plan.

Vision includes the practical question, “Where can the horses in the barn take us if we all pull together and stretched our capacity?” 

“What’s crucial about a vision is not its originality but how well it serves the interests of important constituencies – customers, stockholders, employees—and how easily it can be translated into a realistic competitive strategy.” John Kotter

What is the difference between management and leadership?

How do managers and leaders best relate to each other?

I talked with John Kotter a couple years ago. Perhaps this post will be useful: HOW TO WORK TOGETHER WITHOUT KILLING EACH OTHER