Dozens of distinctions between the difference between a leader and a manager here, but what is NOT a difference?
The seminal piece by Warren Bennis which was an early inspiration for my musings did include some great distinctions (“The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.”), but he also includes some (in my view) clunkers (“The manager imitates; the leader originates.”). I concur with John Kotter’s Harvard Business Review that “Management is (Still) Not Leadership”, I just disagree as to why. And Seth’s Telescope/Microscope distinction is just one of many characterisations of the difference between “Leadership” and “Management”
So I’ve assembled a list of a few other areas where people have proposed distinctions, but I don’t agree…
- Not the same: People use the terms "management" and "leadership" interchangeably. This shows that they don’t see the crucial difference between the two and the vital functions that each role plays.
- Not hierarchical: People use the term "leadership" to refer to the people at the very top of hierarchies. They then call the people in the layers below them in the organization "management." And then all the rest are workers, specialists, and individual contributors. This is also a mistake and very misleading. It is at its worst when “leader” takes on a revered sense and “manager” a pejorative one.
- Not role: People try to describe the distinction as one of roles. For example, Kotter describes process-vision distinction, “[M]anagement is a set of well-known processes…which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well…Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future.”
- Not personality: People often think of "leadership" in terms of personality characteristics, usually as something they call charisma. Since few people have great charisma, this leads logically to the conclusion that few people can provide leadership, which gets us into increasing trouble.