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What’s the difference between leadership and management?

Written by on 27 September 2010

Most people will have some view as to what leadership is and it’s likely that these definitions vary widely, depending on individual experience. In current business operations, most individuals experience leadership through the management process.

What is leadership?

There are many definitions of leadership, yet it is largely a social construct that requires more than one person and is a transaction between those people within a society. Leadership is the process that makes a person, or a number of people, follow others.

The reasons why people choose to follow can be varied or quite specific, dependant on individual contexts. Leadership can be enduring or transcendental in nature, with ‘enduring leadership’ nearly always resonating with a values proposition whilst ‘transcendental leadership’ normally involves a change process.

What is management?

Management is the utilisation of resources in order to affect an outcome. As such, it requires industry understanding, education and training.

During any management process, a number of choices are made. These often reflect the leaders perspective of what needs to be achieved or what they think is right. For many individuals, an organisation’s leadership is expressed through the management function.

The third dimension

A third dimension exists between leadership and management, and that is ‘authority’. Authority legitimises the individual management action and the role of the leader. Management decisions need to be seen as legitimate, and this can only be achieved if the decisions that are articulated through the management process are coherent with the values of the organisation. Likewise, the leader needs to act in keeping with the authority position that is expected. If this is not the case, individuals within the organisation will question the leader’s motivation, and this may well erode the position of authority and destroy compliance with management actions.

Dysfunctional management

Dysfunctional management can often be traced back to either a leader who acts inappropriately for their position of authority or management decisions, which are at odds with the wider interest.

Long-term impact

If an organisation has leaders who behave in a way that is not in keeping with the values of an organisation, those actions will be seen as illegitimate and will erode and eventually lead to the demise of the organisation.

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