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Leadership and management - the differences and overlap

Distinction between leadership and management has for long been an interesting subject matter for academicians and industrialists alike. There has been a definite shift of focus from management to leadership in the context of business organizations. This shift can be attributed to the need of organizations to sustain their growth in the face of rapidly changing competitive landscape across the industries. The differences in leadership and management have been widely acknowledged but the matter of debate is about the overlap between the two and how these important organizational elements help in driving the business both now and in the future.
Leadership an important managerial role or management an important leadership role
In spite of efforts made to understand leadership as distinct from management, leadership is also studied as an essential element of management along with planning, organizing, staffing and controlling.

This view depicts leadership as an important function of management or to make it simpler, leadership is shown as an important managerial role. In this managerial function thrust is on creation of long term vision, development of values, culture and behaviours necessary for pursuing the vision and inspiring people for voluntary commitment to organizational cause. And yet at the same time it is leadership, which is responsible for designing and developing a suitable management system for the organization, to ensure systematic and orderly accomplishment of desired goals.
The differences
Starting the debate from the basic purpose of leadership and management will certainly help us in better understanding the overlap among the two as it starts there.

In the organizational context leadership can be defined as a process through which an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal (Peter G. Northhouse, Leadership theory and practice). The function of management is to ensure fulfilment of organizational goals in a consistent, efficient and orderly way.

What prompts comparisons of leadership and management is the fact that they both are viewed as effective means of achieving organizational goals. Leadership is about influence and so is management. But the similarity ends here. John P. Kotter has distinguished leadership from management in a fundamental way as shown below:

Functions of managementLeadership
  • Establishing agendas
  • setting time frames
  • Budgeting (prioritising and allocating resources)
Establishing direction
  • Creating vision
  • Seeking commitment through culture building
  • Identifying strategies
Organizing / staffing
  • Providing structure
  • Establishing rules and procedures
  • Deploying people (placement)
Aligning people
  • Communicating goals
  • Seeking commitment through culture building
  • Building teams
  • Designing incentive schemes
  • Review against plans
  • Initiating corrective actions
Motivating and inspiring
  • Inspiring and energizing people
  • Empowering people
  • Satisfying unmet needs of the people
Leadership and management - the interplay
The importance of leadership in organization emerges from its role of creating and shaping organizational culture and setting a progressive direction for the organization. With out this there is no role for management, no cause for it to exist. Leadership creates a context for the management to exist. Management on the other hand, through well laid out processes and systems, ensures that effective leadership at every level is developed in the organization, as a driver for future growth. Leaders create future through strong ideas and leave strong imprint of ideology for the company on which the management system is designed.

When executives are involved in the functions of planning, organizing, staffing and controlling they are said to be managing. When they are involved in influencing people through inspirational words and actions for achieving the collective goals they are said to be leading. Leadership is about looking, thinking and bringing change in the organization, where as management is about ensuring order and consistency in the organization. In the absence of leadership, management is a stifling bureaucracy and devoid of clear ends (vision, mission or long term goals) and means (values and behaviours required in the long term). Also leadership with out effective management may lack the discipline and coordinated effort to accomplish long term goals of the company.

Leadership is still in art form, where there is no best or worst way of doing it no universal framework or models exist. On the other hand management is treated as science, where definite frameworks and systems exist to carryout the functions of planning, organizing, staffing and controlling. An organization is run on the stregth of its management systems while leadership provides the vigour to look beyond and gallop ahead.

Hence, leadership and management may be considered two inseparable and intertwined aspects of organizational reality, with out one the effectiveness of other is jeopardised.
© Alagse