Leadership vs Management

Article #8 in a series exploring the business world’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. This series was inspired by the America Reopens Handbook, which was created by the BizBreakthru team and is available to members

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To this point, we’ve focused on management strategies during a crisis. But management is only half the challenge that business owners face. The other half is leadership. We hope that our readers are comfortable with the distinction, but let’s explore a few perspectives on the important distinction.

“Management works in the system; leadership works on the system.” Stephen Covey

Leaders drive and effect change, whereas managers protect and maintain the status quo.” – John Kotter

Kotter is a member of a group of academic scholars loosely referred to as “The New Leadership School.” They focus on the contrast between these two important concepts.

They recognize some commonalities between the two. Young and Dulewicz (2007) identified four “competency clusters,” and then compared and contrasted how the two approaches achieve these general goals:

  1. Conceptualizing what needs to be done,
  2. Aligning people and resources,
  3. Taking an active role (aka “interacting”), and
  4. Creating success

Past research identified some differences between the two approaches along these four dimensions:

Using two instruments, the Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) (SHL, 1999) and the Leadership Dimensions Questionnaire (LDQ) (Dulewicz and Higgs, 2005), they drew the following Venn diagram to illustrate some of the differences (and similarities):


Based on this research, they conclude, among other things, that (emphasis ours):

Whilst the analyses above provide evidence for the differentiation of the constructs of leadership and management, the number of competencies common to both suggests that effective performers possess competencies which enable them to demonstrate a balanced combination of leadership and management. They also suggest that certain individuals can be developed into good managers and good leaders, supporting Kotter’s (1990) assertion that companies must ignore the literature that says people cannot manage and lead.

So a single business owner can both lead and manage the organization, but there is still a difference between leadership and management. In our next few articles, we will explore the leadership dimension in more detail.

Do you consider yourself a better leader or a better manager? Let us know! Share your comments below!


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