Feb. 2 2011 02:04 PM

There are many courses and books on management, but what is leadership and what makes it different from management? I have had the opportunity and privilege to be a student of the number one leadership academy for the past six months. My teacher has been John King, co-author of the book, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization. In this column, I would like to share some of what I have learned.

Leadership is a different world than management. There are times when managing is critical and other times where leadership is called for. The awareness of the difference is useful so that practicing managers and leaders can consciously choose the appropriate way of being. 

Leadership and management are paradoxical. It is not a problem to be solved but a way of being that is called forth by the situation at hand. Leaders often take people to where they don't want to go, into the unknown. Leaders don’t have the answers, they embrace ambiguity. A leader stands in the present and looks to the future. In leadership, everything is taken into account and appropriate actions are considered. Things are uncertain. A leader is in control while the world around them may be out of control. That is why it is messy. Leadership is about changing the way things are for the better. Leaders have a vision of the future and look at the big picture. They see what is possible.

Followers choose to follow their leaders, and they can change their mind quickly. “The source of management is granted by authority; leadership is given by permission of those being led.” (King) So leaders need to inspire, motivate and align people. Leaders tend to the environment so that all people flourish. This is how leadership is measured: are people around the leader flourishing? How do leaders get people to blossom? They acknowledge, encourage and nurture. Taking care of the environment is like taking care of a garden. Everything matters: the sun, the soil, the seeds, the animals and the entire environment. Leadership takes it all into account. 

Management is about execution; getting it done on time and under budget. Yet, subordinates will often resent managers that behave like overseers or drill sergeants. Leadership is about inspiration and provides the motivation for perspiration. Leaders inspire us with a noble cause; something bigger that goes beyond what anyone can achieve on their own. 
Management is tactical. It is about setting things in order. In management we look at best practices and case studies. Managers are efficient. They let people know when jobs are out of compliance. They plan the details and track the results. As the saying goes, “what gets measured gets managed.” They focus on tasks and often are more directive and controlling. Managers establish the agenda and get things done, under a deadline.

Leaders set the direction and ask the question of why; managers plan the details and ask the question of when. “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” (Drucker) Leaders challenge the way the way things are and managers work to keep things the same, predictable and reliable. Managers produce order and consistency. Leadership is not management on steroids. Leadership is working on the business; management is working in the business. 

Management and Leadership are two different worlds and have two different sets of operating principles. Without both, we lose. The workplace needs our leadership so that all people can flourish and know the joy that comes from making a difference.

Leadership                Management
Given by permission  Granted by authority
Vision                           Execution
Long-term horizon      Short-term horizon
Set the direction         Plan the details
Do the right thing        Do things right
Strategic                     Tactical
Messy                          Crisp
Art                                Craft
Context                       Content
Change                      Compliance
Working on the business Working in the business

Mark is the Chairman of a New York City think tank composed of CEOs focused on “outperforming” their competition. He is with Vistage International, the world’s leading chief executive organization. He applies his 30 years of experience as an accomplished CEO & corporate manager towards increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of CEOs. Mark holds a MBA from the University of Phoenix and is a graduate of the Coaching and Organizational Learning Program through George Mason University. He can be reached at (212) 867-5849 or mark.taylor@vistage.com