During the 1990s, the topic of leadership took on new meaning and interest in organizations. As with many business fads (e.g. total quality management, business process reengineering, and knowledge management), the numbers of articles and books on leadership exploded to serve the insatiable appetites of business people, HR practitioners, and the public in general. Interest in the field of management diminished, while people explored such topics as spiritual leadership; the learning organization concept and its implications for shared leadership; women as leaders; lessons from such notable individuals as Gandhi, Thatcher and Churchill; and Native teachings.
While the plethora of new books and articles on leadership has contributed in an important way to raising the level of awareness and understanding on the subject, it has also created confusion, and perhaps more importantly, relegated management as a discipline to the back burner. It is only in the past decade where some prominent thinkers and writers have begun to stress the importance of management practices in organizations and the need to integrate this discipline with that of leadership development. While the two are distinct, they are nevertheless interrelated.
In a period of discontinuous change (that change is not smooth but rather comes in unpredictable bursts), the interlinking of management and leadership development is extremely important. No longer can organizations afford to address the two fields as separate silos. Instead, a systems approach is required to ensure that an organization’s managers develop good management practices and solid leadership abilities. Combined, the two fields will ensure that those in management positions are able to deal with discontinuous change, and that their staff possess the necessary competencies to learn continuously, explore opportunities, innovate, and serve clients to the highest degree possible.
Before an organization jumps into developing a management and leadership development model, it is essential that the question be asked: who is a leader in the organization? Is leadership specific to management positions? If so, then leadership is positional in the organizational hierarchy. Or is leadership seen by senior management as being more inclusive, in which employees throughout the organization are encouraged to develop their leadership abilities?
This is a key question to pose because it creates a common vocabulary and set of expectations in an organization. From this will emerge a culture that is defined on how leadership is perceived and practiced.
The issue of leadership versus management development becomes a moot point if leadership in an organization is defined as being the domain of management. As we will see below, approaching the two fields as separate entities only further deepens the rift between them, contributing to misunderstandings throughout an organization, the ineffective use of training funds, and limited progress in creating effective managerial leaders.
If an organization chooses the path of participative leadership, as it recreates its corporate culture, the challenge will be how to create a model that reflects both management and leadership development. For employees in management positions, there is a rapidly growing need to have an approach (or program) that embraces both management and leadership competencies. For aspiring managers, these employees need to be factored into the process. The urgency for this is rising as the existing management cadre begins to retire in large numbers over the next few years. Those seeking to move into management are the succession pool, and hence require sustained attention in terms of their developmental needs.
For employees who do not aspire to be managers, or who will not progress to this level, the added challenge is how to encourage their leadership development, in the context of their participating more in decision-making and in taking more initiative. This assumes that senior management wishes to support the creation of a ‘leaderful’ organization because of the benefits this would bring.
The next section looks at what a number of leading thinkers are saying on management and leadership.
Management versus Leadership
The relationship between leadership and management has been described by Kotter (2001) as “…two distinctive and complementary systems of action.” While each field has its own unique characteristics and functions, both are essential for managers if they are to operate successfully in complex organizations that are subject to continuous change. To focus on leadership development may produce strong leaders, but the consequence will be weak management. And the converse is true. How to combine strong leadership and strong management, so that there is balance, is the real challenge.
Similarly, Drucker (1998) sees the interrelationship between the two. He does not believe that management and leadership can be separated. He states it is “…nonsense*as much nonsense as separating management from entrepreneurship. Those are part and parcel of the same job. They are different to be sure, but only as different as the right hand from the left or the nose from the mouth. They belong to the same body.”
A third perspective is that of Henry Mintzberg, noted for his early empirical work on what managers do. In an interview with CBC’s Ideas in 1999, he explained that managers “…sit between their organizations and the outside world….they manage information in order to encourage people to take action.” Where does leadership fit in his perspectives on organizations? The long lists of attributes and characteristics of leaders leads Mintzberg to state: “…Superman’s abilities are modest in comparison. We list everything imaginable.” For Mintzberg, good leaders are candid, open, honest, and share information with people.
From this brief review of what three leading management thinkers have expressed, one outcome facing organizations with respect to their leadership climate may be described as follows: When an individual enters an organization that is functioning well, one is able to sense it. Some call this the “smell of the place”. It becomes very apparent in this type of organizational climate that there is abundant energy present, and that this energy is focused. People enjoy going to work everyday because they understand where they fit into the organization’s vision and what their roles and responsibilities are. They are committed.
This is the challenge, therefore, of weaving together the roles of management and leadership so that they form a coherent whole, with respect to how the works get done in organizations. But what can we say about the key distinctions and complementarities between management and leadership?
Management & Leadership as Functions
Increasingly, managers must deal with complexity in their organizations and the surrounding environment. In the absence of good management practices, organizations fall into chaos, which in turn threatens their survival. Thus, one can say that management brings order to organizations and consistency to their products and services. Leadership, in contrast, involves coping with change. In a world experiencing economic and societal turbulence, this key feature of leadership is becoming increasingly valuable to organizations.
These two features, coping with complexity and change, shape the functions of management and leadership. In the real world, therefore, managers have three essential tasks to perform. First, they must determine the work that needs to be done by their staff. Second, to accomplish this work people must work laterally, often forming networks. Managers are conduits to ensuring that this occurs. And third, they must ensure that the work gets done properly and on time.
Management and leadership, while both addressing these tasks, approach them from different perspectives.
Planning, budgeting, and resource allocation are activities initiated through the management function in an effort to address the issue of complexity. As a management process, planning is about producing orderly results, not about change. Leadership, on the other hand, involves creating a vision to chart a course for the organization. As part of this process, strategies are developed to initiate and sustain the needed changes to stay focused on the vision. How this is done is critical to helping move an organization towards its vision.
To reach its goals, management organizes and hires. This involves creating an organizational structure, including a set of job descriptions, that will enable the organization to achieve these goals. Through this process of organizing and staffing, management develops delegation authorities and monitoring systems. It also creates communication plans to ensure that employees understand what is taking place.
But the management function needs the opposing hand of leadership to assist it, namely in aligning people. Communication becomes a critical activity here, especially in regard to ensuring that all employees understand the vision.
Management must also ensure that the plan is achieved, and it is does this through controlling and problem-solving. Monitoring plays an important role here. In contrast, leadership requires that people are motivated and inspired to work towards a vision, despite setbacks and unforeseen problems.
What does this mean for Management/Leadership Development?
This paper has shown that while management and leadership do indeed possess some distinct differences, there is also a complementarity that is emerging. The growth in knowledge work and the expectations of workers (e.g., Generation Y) are strongly influencing how both leadership and management are practices. Work still needs to be planned, organized, directed, coordinated, monitored, etc. But the context is changing rapidly, both from an externally driven, discontinuous change perspective, and from within – the values people possess and what motivates and inspires them.
How organizations approach management and leadership development is critical to their eventual success, let alone their long-term survival. And as noted at the outset, one of the first questions that must be asked is “How do we define leadership in our organization?”
Drucker, Peter. (Sept. 1998). Feature Interview with Peter Drucker. Training & Development Magazine.
Kotter, John. (Reprint Dec. 2001) What Leaders Really Do. Harvard Business Review. pp. 85-87.
Mintzberg, Henry. In Conversation. CBC Ideas. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1999.
James Taggart has been a student of leadership for over 15 years, and devoted over a decade to applied work in leadership development, organizational learning, and team building. As a thought leader, he has initiated and led several change management projects. He has also worked as an economist for many years, conducting applied research into labour market issues; carry