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The Difference Between Leadership and Management

Mar 1, 2008
Leadership is process; it is continually in motion. Management is the product of that process, as well as its saviour. Left to itself, movement would travel on into infinity, there would be no boundary, no brakes.

Structure provides movement with a framework within which to move without overreaching itself. Management grounds leadership by setting up and maintaining the systems which provide any organization with coherence, with continuity and sense, with the weight required to prevent it from drifting off into the heavens.

Management is the organization's way of coping with the fact that leaderships head is always in the clouds. In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey refers to the idea that all things are created twice (1989).

The first creation is a mental one, the second physical. He provides as example the construction of a house.

The first creation is the mental one, the design itself. The second is the putting together of the bricks and mortar, the construction itself. Leadership, in this sense, is the design, while management is the building itself.

Leadership then, is the formative force, management the physical substance. Leadership is water; management is earth. Leadership is process, management is product.

It is incumbent on leadership to ensure that the organization is effective in what it does; that its strategies, and the way in which it gives effect to these, are appropriate and have impact.

It is incumbent on management to ensure that the organization is efficient in what it does; that its internal systems function logically and smoothly. To put it simplistically, it has been said that while leadership ensures that the organization does the right thing, managements responsibility is to ensure that things are done right.

Management then, is about giving substance to organizational direction, and form to organizational needs.

It is about setting up systems and procedures, controlling these systems and procedures so that they function optimally and are adhered to, and ensuring that the various systems and structures articulate coherently.

Systems and procedures facilitate the smooth running of the organization; they ensure that the organization is controlled and disciplined. They provide a structure within which people can operate, and provide a measure of equality in the sense that-everyone is equal before the law.

The attempt of many organizations to develop a democratic organizational form is often interpreted as the need to allow each person full freedom, without accountability. But experience has shown that freedom without accountability leads to the -law of the jungle- where the most powerful dominate all others.

Democracy is a fragile entity which demands the protection of systems and procedures if it is to work and not degenerate into anarchy and chaos.

At the same time, excessive structure and rules can lead to extreme forms of bureaucratic absurdity where peoples creativity and motivation are stifled under the weight of relentless systems and procedures. Balance is vital.

One of the main areas where the quest for balance is so important is around the question of discipline and accountability.

Management control, in this area, entails:

Establishment of performance standards; measurement of performance; evaluation of performance; and correction of performance. Systems and procedures need to be designed in order to ensure accountability and compliance.

At the same time, such systems, once in place, should not be taken for granted and applied by rote. There is always a need to balance organizational needs with individual needs.

Where this is ignored, conflict and tension result. The setting up and monitoring of the systems can be regarded as pure management.

The adjustments of the system to respond to the ebb and flow of organizational and individual fluctuations demands leadership skills on the part of the manager. Note that control does not mean some people controlling others, it means the organization is in control, the parts work together responsibly to create the desired results. This condition is known as accountability.
About the Author
Marcia Granger creates life and passion at work. Her clients are buzzing and have only one question "how much joy can I stand?" Want joy in your life? Visit us at www.megamorphose.com
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