One of the oldest debates in the world has to do with management vs. leadership. There seems to be a prevailing belief they are archenemies like the Joker and Batman. In truth, management and leadership are two sides of the same coin. Different in essence, yet there are some commonalities. Without both, sustained success is impossible.

I’ve been asked about this topic throughout my career. Honestly, I’ve avoided writing or teaching about it. My focus has been on leadership. In retrospect, this could have been a mistake. However, my logic was, and still is the same: Most organizations I encounter in the marketplace and in the non-profit sector are over managed and under led. That’s one reason I’ve devoted myself to encourage and equip leaders.

Management vs. leadership is a touchy subject. Leaders tend to get the limelight and managers not so much. Therefore, there is sometimes a misplaced and inaccurate belief leadership is more important. That is not true – both are essential.

To further complicate the subject, I’ve met very few pure leaders or pure managers. Most of us have a good measure of both in us. Also, many of the activities of both professions are shared; thus my opening analogy about two sides of the same coin. As an example, great leaders and great managers both value people and treat them with honor, dignity and respect. So, is that a management practice or a leadership practice? Yes! Both.

A final example… A short stop and a catcher on a baseball team, can both run, throw and catch. These activities are common between them. However, they play very different positions. That’s the way I think about management and leadership. There are certainly some common practices, but the roles are fundamentally different. I’ll highlight a few of the different contributions each brings to table.

Leaders                                           Managers

See the future                                     Create the future

Focus on what can be                       Focus on what is

Create change                                     Create stability

Comfortable with ambiguity           Prefer the concrete

Embrace uncertainty                         Prefer certainty

Enjoy variety                                       Value consistency

Think  goals                                         Think budget

Focus on strategy                                Focus on tactics

See opportunity                                  See obstacles

Drive for innovation                          Focus on improvement

Ignore boundaries                              Impose boundaries

Create chaos                                        Create order

Here’s the point – our organizations need BOTH. Don’t make the mistake of over-valuing either. The tension created when managers and leaders work together is needed! In tension there is inherent power and energy. Help your people find their unique contribution and create a culture where both are valued and nurtured.tweet_bird

One more thought, since this site is dedicated to leadership, you may have that bias. If that’s true of you, the next time you’re in a meeting and someone with a managerial bias has an idea that you find totally foreign to your way of thinking, thank him or her; and then listen intently. There’s wisdom in their words.[GLS_Shield]

What would you add to the two lists above?






Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.