As a consultant and coach, I’ve been asked by many clients what’s the difference between leadership and management. The traditional view is that leadership and management are closely related, but distinct and unique concepts. This view is well supported by research and there are countless articles and models that define leadership and management as distinct concepts in their own right. But, it turns out that defining leadership and management is harder than one might think. There is no single definition of leadership or management (there seem to be nearly as many definitions of the concepts as there are authors writing on the topic).
So, what are leadership and management?
Boiled down, leadership is about influence - the ability to connect with others on a personal level and motivate them to work toward a goal.
Management is about control – defining and/or enforcing processes, policies, and procedures and directing others to complete a task or goal relying on authority and position power.
I work with organizations to assess leader’s strengths and development needs. In applied practice, it is important to recognize that leadership and management don’t operate independently of one another. The behaviors I see leaders display on the job don’t fall neatly into either a leadership or management behavior bucket. Although leadership and management can be defined as distinct concepts, the behaviors that lead to success for either are interdependent. Leadership and management behaviors co-mingle in a nuanced and multifaceted manner that is unique in every leader and organizational context. In real life, leaders on the job behaviors are complex and require a deeper evaluation beyond the leadership and management concepts.
From a practical point of view, and regardless of the level of a leader’s role, if someone is in charge of achieving results through others, they need to simultaneously master the ability to connect interpersonally and influence others (leadership) while also holding others accountable and control (management) for task/goal achievement. So instead of describing these behaviors as leadership and management, it makes more sense to think of them as influence and control.
The relative importance of influence and control will vary from job to job. Typically, the more senior a leadership role is, the more influence is required. However, focusing only on influence without an appropriate level of control is a recipe for chaos, wasted resources, and ultimately failure. Alternatively, a hyper focus on control without any focus on influence will lead to toxic cultures with low levels of engagement, and again, will ultimately lead to failure. It is essential that leaders at all levels balance influence and control be successful in achieving results through others.
In support of our executive assessment process, 3D Group has developed a leadership model with four major domains (each with specific behavior competencies) which define what it takes to be simultaneously effectively influence people and control process and procedures. To be effective in any of the domains requires skill as both influencing and controlling. For most leaders either influence or control comes more naturally. The domain definitions and defined behaviors are a practical metric for the evaluation of how a leader uses their influencing and controlling skills on the job – where they are balancing the two well, and where they may be over or under utilizing one or the other. The domains are:
Effective leaders achieve excellent results through others. They manage their time well and prioritize their own and their team's activities in accordance with the team’s purpose, the organization’s operational goals and the organization’s strategy. The best leaders motivate top performance in others and delegate effectively to achieve results with the optimal level of personal involvement while also developing talent to meet the organization’s needs in the future.
Understanding the internal politics of organizations is key to success. The most effective leaders are politically aware but avoid playing politics. They use their political awareness to achieve their personal, team, and organization’s goals constructively but avoid politicizing issues. They avoid us versus them mentalities and build relationships instead of building silos or alienating coworkers. Effective leaders build trust through delivering results, acting with integrity and transparency, and maintaining good working relationships with all levels of the organization by focusing on the company’s success rather than their own personal glory.
It is essential that leaders understand the value chain that the organization leverages to achieve its mission. Leaders need to be proficient in understanding the metrics that measure success and how to pull the right levers to achieve results. They make decisions based on a clear link between short- and long- term strategy and are active learners, gaining knowledge of the business, industry and market. It is also essential that they understand the needs of their customers – satisfying today’s needs and adapting and innovating for the future.
Leaders need to convey a professional and confident presence. They lead by example with authenticity and generate respect from others at all levels. They must be able to communicate with a wide range of audiences and are driven to achieve high standards. The best leaders demonstrate resilience and maturity and maintain positive relationships with their co-workers even in the most stressful situations. Balancing strong personal convictions and openness to ideas, strong leaders demonstrate an active willingness to change positions based on new information.
When we use this model to assess senior level executives within reach of the C-suite, we find it does a great job of identifying leaders who can’t manage and micromanagers who can’t lead.
Learn more about 3D Group’s executive assessment process.