Leadership vs. management: How to be a leader

Photo by Hamed Saber.

The difference between management and leadership is often described in the reverse order: Leadership is making sure the right things get done, and management is making sure those things get done right.

In fact, the literature also makes a distinction between the two roles. Leaders are seen as those who “press for change,” and managers are seen as those who “promote stability” (Kotter, as cited in Haddock, 2013, p. 253). Leaders focus on providing the vision and strategy for the organization, while managers focus on implementing the vision and strategy, and handle the day-to-day activities (Kanungo, as cited in Haddock, 2013, p. 253).

A good leader knows what "done" will look like

Many of us have had the experience of working with a leader who inspires us to do more and contribute all we can to the success of an initiative. Many of us have also worked with leaders who exhaust us, whether it be through relentless criticism or unreasonable expectations.

It might sound trite, but in order to be a good leader, you need to know not only what you’re trying to achieve, but also what “done” will look like. Vision and mission are important. You need to be very clear of, and able to communicate, and demonstrate through your actions, your commitment to the vision and mission of the organization.

Understand your own drive and motivation

Much of the current literature around leadership also emphasizes the need, as a leader, to know yourself – to be able to understand your own drive and motivation. In his Forbes article, "The Only True Leadership is Values-Based Leadership," Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, Jr. writes, "...becoming the best kind of leader isn’t about emulating a role model or a historic figure. Rather, your leadership must be rooted in who you are and what matters most to you. When you truly know yourself and what you stand for, it is much easier to know what to do in any situation. It always comes down to doing the right thing and doing the best you can."

To that end, leadership development is personal and ongoing, and we need to develop a plan for our own self-management and personal development. To be an effective leader (the kind that people want to work with), we need to focus our efforts at not only developing our skills as leaders, but also in appropriately and effectively applying those skills.

About the author

Pamela Hollington, MBA, is an experienced management consultant and trainer with a strong knowledge of business processes and management issues. She has over 30 years of business experience, including work in the financial, manufacturing, distribution and retail industries, as well as consulting and volunteer engagements in the public, private and non-profit sectors.  

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