August 26, 2016 Comments Off on TALENT TALK (Leadership Series): The Difference Between Leadership and Management Views: 386 Connect Classroom

TALENT TALK (Leadership Series): The Difference Between Leadership and Management

Talent Talk is a regular column on employment trends written by Glen Esnard, the executive vice president and principal of 20-20 Foresight Executive Search. 


This is the first in a three-part blog on leadership. It focuses on what leadership is, the distinct types of leadership and what type of leadership is most effective in service organizations.

Leadership is an oft used term. Yet, much like the Buddhist parable of the “Blind Men and the Elephant,” all who encounter or think they encounter leadership see it differently.

My intent here is to provide a view of leadership that passes the “works or doesn’t work” test.

First, a critical distinction. How do “leadership” and “management” differ, or do they?

Surprisingly, there is no commonly held distinction. Bernard Bass, who regularly reviewed all research on leadership in his tomes (1,536 pages at last count) “The Bass Handbook of Leadership” affirms this lack of distinction. Webster defines a manager as “someone who is in charge of a business, department, etc.”, and leader as “a person who directs a military force or unit, and a person who has commanding authority or influence.”

I’m not sure I see a significant distinction.

However, in order to develop an effective framework for leadership as distinct from management, some distinction must be crafted. So consider the following.

I agree with Webster’s notion of management as “someone who is in charge.” In a classic organizational context, then, a manager has the authority to run things; to hire, fire, discipline, to control budgets, to instruct. More significantly, management authority can be bestowed by one higher in the organization.

To be distinct, leadership must assume a different context. For that I turn to my good friend John King who, when asked to take a position on leadership, led with “the leader only leads by permission of those being led.” He framed this as a paradox. I suggest otherwise. It elegantly defines leadership. As distinct from management, leadership authority is bestowed by those being led. It is their choice and no others. I’ll re-frame this. If you think you are a leader, look over your shoulder. If the only people there are those who have no choice, you are not a leader.

If you can, assess your team. In this context, are you a manager or a leader?

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