Leadership is Management

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.


5 replies »

  1. It’s not a false duality, Colleen. Lot of truth to what you are saying, but IMHO you twist the issue around influence, and neither leadership nor management relies solely on influence. BTW, when you focus on how to be effective in whatever role you’ve been assigned, you are engaging in an important part of the leadership process. I’ve worked for far too many managers that were only concerned about how to make themselves more effective in their role but did not give a damn about how to help me be more effective in mine. Thanks! Bret

  2. Colleen, I could not agree more. I think the “Leadership or Management” discussion adds complexity where it’s not necessary. Ask the right question: “How can I be great working with others?” and forget the labels.

  3. Although there is a shortage of effective leaders in the marketplace, there is even more of a shortage of charismatic leaders. The recent death of Apple’s Steve Jobs not only represented an end of an era, but the passing of a charismatic leader who made technology sexy. To be able to add personality to inanimate objects could only stem from the imagination of a charismatic leader. However, there are a few things an aspiring leader can cultivate in developing charismatic leadership skills.

    1. – Charismatic leaders are great innovators. Innovation comes through having a preternatural curiosity about how systems work and uncovering the gaps that make systems less efficient. Using Jobs as an example, he saw that Pop culture was influencing the behavior of individuals. Although technology had to have a utilitarian value attached to it, it also needed to be attractive and engaging. Taking cues from the fashion, entertainment, and automotive industries, charismatic leaders discover the latent desires of consumers and fulfill these desires with objects of affection. To develop your charisma, passionately focus on a challenge within your industry and turn solving problems into a mission. You will gain a following by evangelizing, writing, and developing practical solutions to problems.

    2. – Charismatic leaders are introspective. Charismatic leaders spend a lot of time reading, thinking, and synthesizing disparate ideas. Although, charismatic leaders are viewed as “great people” persons, a lot of their time is spent pondering ideas in solitude. Charismatic leaders define themselves by their performance. In the movie, “A Beautiful Mind” with Russell Crowe, John Nash had an insatiable desire to create an idea that would gain him recognition and distinction. Many charismatic leaders are similarly motivated. By pondering and sharing the ideas of personal unresolved and unfulfilled aspirations, charismatic leaders become more engaging to adoring participants. By spending more time reveling in the field of ideas, you become more imaginative and heroic in your pursuits.

    3. – Charismatic leaders speak with specificity. Although charismatic leaders are noted for passionate and effective oratory, it is their ability to speak with specificity and detail that makes them magnetic. By providing clear, precise, and practical information, employees are able to see their role in an overarching vision. If you begin breaking a mission down step-by-step with passionate oratory that speaks to the long term manifestation of an idea, you will not only free the employee of ambiguity, you will inspire the employee to create options to the mission you may not have considered. In the end, clear and concise communication is used as a motivational device.

    Steve Jobs created Apple using many of these traits. If you see your role on the world’s stage as either transformational or merely trying to positively affect your department, using the strategies of charismatic leaders will allow you to have an edge within your industry.

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