How Leadership Differs from Management

Leaders are portrayed as super managers because they are more inspiring and emotionally engaging. Managers are seen as controlling or as having a narrow focus on keeping things ticking over. Leaders are thus painted into a corner. If you can’t inspire people you can’t be a leader. Further, management is given an extremely negative, limited role. We need to upgrade management to take on a greater organizational load and free leadership from its style restriction.

One way to do this is to focus leadership on promoting new directions, showing a better way, leaving management to take care of getting everything done. This approach has some interesting implications, however. It means that leadership only sells the tickets for the journey, that it has nothing to do with getting work done through people. If we upgrade management, we need to say that managers can be inspiring, empowering and enabling, that they just have a different focus.

The reason this is important, I think, is that it gives us a clearer understanding of how innovative knowledge workers can show bottom-up leadership when they promote new products. They may be able to do so successfully without having anything to do with managing the implementation of their proposals. Thus, their leadership comes to an end once the senior team buys their idea. This is an ideal example of how leadership can be seen as totally separate from management.