How Leadership Differs From Management

What are the ways leadership differs from management? Are modern pressures for speed and competitiveness causing an over-managed yet under-led Corporate America? I’ve been reading about this lately, and here’s what I’m starting to understand.

At the head of many countries around the world there are separate managers and leaders. Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev is more of a leader as head of state than the manager or head of the government Prime Minister Vladmir Putin. A clearer example is England. I recently watched The King’s Speech, last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner. The movie depicts how King George VI, head of state for the United Kingdom during World War II, served as leader for the British people. It was His Majesty’s vision, communication and resolve that symbolically lead the country through a perilous historic period. Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister and head of the government, managed the day-to-day challenges of the war, as seen through King George’s vision.

The president of the United States is both the head of the state and the head of the government. As head of government, a management role, the president serves as the head of the executive branch and commander in chief of the military. On a day-to-day basis, he signs bills into laws, appoints ambassadors and makes policy recommendations to congress.

As the head of state, a leadership role, the president paints a picture of the future for the American people with communication like the state of the union address. He motivates the armed forces by supporting the troops with surprise visits to overseas battle grounds. A president also represents our country as leader to the rest of the world. He’s exemplifies the American way of life and its value system.

As I see it, leaders fulfill a number of different roles for organizations and the individuals they lead. Here’s my list of key roles distinguishing leader from manager.

Leaders are…

…Believers in their people
…Change agents
…Challengers of the status quo and complacency
…Strategic thinkers
…Servants and supporters
…Models of their organization’s character, values and integrity

Today I see pressure to manage the daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly numbers of a business. Daily pressures from the competition, the boss, or the inbox don’t leave much time for mentoring, strategizing and visualizing future possibilities. Experts on organizations like John Kotter predict that competitive pressures will continue to increase in coming decades. I find I have to a lot time for leadership, regardless of the pressure to make the daily numbers. I try to remember my team needs me to be both manager and leader.