Leadership versus Management

There is much debate on the topic of leadership versus management.

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, there are differences.  This quote by John C. Maxwell clarifies the key difference in a nutshell: 

"While managers are often able to maintain a team at its current level, leaders are able to lift it to a higher level than it has ever reached before."

Leadership versus Management

These quotes represent commonly believed differences between the two terms:

"Leadership and management are different and distinct." - John Kotter 

"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way."       - John C. Maxwell

“Management works in the system; leadership works on the system.”            - Stephen Covey

"Leaders drive and effect change, whereas managers protect and maintain the status quo."  - John Kotter

"Leaders can see possibilities, whereas managers see what is."        

"Leaders take the necessary action to explore and realize the possibilities,  whereas managers seek to keep things as is."

"The managerial personality is pragmatic.  Without the manager there would be no planning, no order, no predictability." - Michael E. Gerber

"A leader gets others to want what s/he wants; management is about daily task-by-task oversight. - D. Marker

"A leader establishes organizational direction." - J. Kotterman

"A manager is necessary to introduce and maintain order and consistency into the work place, stabilize work, organize resources, solve problems, and reduce chaos." - J. Kotterman

"Leadership is not a function but is instead a relationship, whereas management is a function." - M. Maccoby

"Management and leadership are separate roles but they aren’t necessarily multiple people." - Dr. Dean McCall

"A good leader or manager will always keep learning."

"People work for managers, they follow leaders."

"Leadership focuses on people.  Management focuses on performance."

"One doesn’t have to be a manager to be a leader." - L. Bolman & T. Deal

"Leaders and managers serve a valuable purpose. Both are needed for an organization to succeed." - Coach Gwen

Young & Dulewicz

Dr. Victor Dulewicz and Mike Young completed a very interesting study on the similaries and differences between leadership and management.  Comparisons between the two are described below:

  • "Leadership sets a direction while management plans and budgets."
  • "Leadership aligns people while management organizes and staffs."
  • "Leadership motivates people while management controls and solves problems."
  • "Leadership masters the context, while management controls the environment." 

A Note of Thanks

Many of the "Leader vs Manager" quotes above are excerpts from a study conducted by Dr. Dean McCall.  His dissertation, the Intrinsic Conflict Between Management and Leadership, was successfully defended at Pepperdine University.  (Excerpts used by permission.)

Thank you, Dr. McCall!

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About Coach Gwen



Leaders don't







- Tom Peters


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