Let’s all agree to stop the useless debate about the differences between leadership and management. Leadership is management and management is leadership.
Leadership is the act of influencing others to achieve a goal. One acquires influence through the use of power. This happens in a number of ways, through formal position (legitimate power), through expertise (expert power), through being admired and relationships (referent power), through the power to provide rewards (reward power) and through the power to punish (coercive power).
Managers have access to legitimate power, reward power and coercive power, and may, depending on the situation, have access to expert power and referent power. Good managers know how to effectively use power to create influence and therefore lead. If a manager can’t lead well, that is, influence their followers to pursue organizational goals, they won’t be successful.
This isn’t to say that leadership isn’t found among those who are not in a management position. They have access to different forms of power and influence, such as referent power, expert power, and sometimes, coercive power. In fact, many scholars believe that there is a form of leadership called “distributed leadership” whereby the participants in a group divide the tasks of leadership between themselves, and no one has a formal position as leader.
The leadership versus management debate is a false duality. Good managers must be able to use influence and therefore leadership effectively. Effective followers must also use influence (or leadership) in a productive manner as well. So the real duality is in the effective versus ineffective use of influence to achieve shared goals.
So let’s stop wasting time talking about the differences between leadership and management. I’m far more interested in learning how to be effective in whatever role I’ve been assigned.