Leadership vs Management

I have always believed that leaders and managers are two different kinds of people. This article, distinguishes between leaders and managers quite well.

Leaders conceive and initiate strategies that create and sustaincompetitive differentiation and advantage. They continuously pursue and evaluate innovations that may lead to increased productivity, new business opportunities and markets, and new or expanded competitive advantage and differentiation. They direct and influence corporate activities and behaviors to develop an environment and processes that support and sustain these strategies

Managers implement strategies in day-to-day operations. They establish processes and systems, create business rules and operating procedures, and monitor performance to maximize the efficient production of the company’s products and services. They have the frontline responsibility for ensuring efficient and appropriate use of company resources, including equipment, employees and capital.

Thus, in summary it appears that leaders think, and managers implement. Now, here is my insight:

Most orgnanizations actually reward good managers. Good managers, over a period of time tend to occupy leadership roles. Is this necessarily good? The skill sets that are required from a manager seem to differ from what a leader requires. A manager is likely to be one who is good at delivering results, planning, organizing, people skills, data analysis etc. A leader on the other hand would need to begood at analyzing the environment, predicting trends, understanding human potential (of his team), influencing people and so forth. Plato believed that philosophers would probably make good kings. In the same vein, it appears that a good leader would be one who is an evolved creature, who can get away from the mundane operational issues, and look far ahead into the future.

Now, if this hypothesis is true, shouldn’t organizations look for different kinds of people to occupy these two kinds of roles. In other words, I would like to see organizations look at creating two kinds of talent pipelines – a management pipeline, and a leadership pipeline, and not mix up the two. The management pipeline would consist of the left-brainers, the people who know what needs to be done to get the job done – the analytical people, who are good at making plans, roadmaps etc. The leadership pipeline would consist of the people with softer skills – creativity, intuition, vision, good values, a sense of justice, fairness etc. A leader is almost like a lighthouse, that creates paths, while good managers are probably like sailors who know where to go thanks to the lighthouse, but need to use their own talents to ‘get there’.

Needless to say, this classification may make the ‘leaders’ appear more glamourous, but that is the case anyway in most modern organizational hierarchies. I however believe, that both skills are equally valuable – without good management, ideas would just remain ideas.


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