Leadership and Management – Semantics Or A Case Of Mistaken Identities?

So often the terms leadership and management are used synonymously in casual business conversation however in reality, the two practices are observably distinct from each other. The observable behavioral differences between the two terms can be subtle and difficult to distinguish to a casual observer. As an experienced manager and leader, I can say with passion and conviction, the titles, responsibilities, and expectations of each are not the same.I have commented in the past that great managers may not always be great leaders, however great leaders have likely been great managers. The suggestion at play here is that the overall cache of observable behavioral characteristics attributed to managers would be fewer than the number attributed to leaders since great leaders have often been great managers too. There is no doubt, this is a debatable position and would make a good philosophical argument. My purpose here is to provide insight into my reasoning based on my experiences and research. I also want to provide a practical tool for understanding the similarities and differences between a manager and a leader. There is an abundance of scholarly material highlighting empirically grounded study after study of managerial and leadership behavioral attributes; should you wish to immerse yourself in the materials. However, if you are interested in a brief but highly useful explanation of what separates managers from leaders, keep reading.Throughout much of the 20th century, management approaches to running a business, and interaction with employees, have been characterized as a command and control structure. Militaristic in form and application, the command and control structure served commerce by providing clear lines of hierarchical organization, delineation of duties and responsibilities, and a top-down orientation. Recall, if you will, the casual term used to refer to industrial greats like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Astor and Morgan as “captains” of industry.To achieve mass production efficiencies, fight two world wars, and grow a modern industrialized nation, the command and control structure of managing fit the bill nicely. Workers toiled on assembly lines accomplishing their repetitive task under the oversight of a supervisor or foreman who may or may not have understood the scientific management work of Frederick Taylor. Clearly, leadership behaviors and attributes were required to achieve the enormous tasks of industrializing a nation. However, theses attributes were confined to only the top echelons of larger organizations.By the middle of the 20th century, the earlier rough-hewn command and control structures began to take on a more sophisticated blend of management art and science, with the practical adoption of theoretical models and management approaches from Maslow, Hertzberg, Demming, Odiorne, and Druker. However, as our nation matured and began moving to a knowledge and information society, simpler command and control management strategies were beginning to change. The psychology and behavior of workers began to take on colorful scientific and theoretical explanations. Workers were beginning to be seen as multifaceted and multidimensional. Women and minorities were adding to the diversity of the workforce in increasing numbers.In the latter half of the 20th century as the industrial age gave way to the knowledge and information age; the traditional command and control structures began to evolve into structures that supported innovation; intrepreneurship, skunk works, quality circles, and self directed work teams. In addition, corporate ethics, citizenship, and accountability forever linked corporations to the social expectations of our society. Business leaders had to develop adaptive skills required to guide businesses through these swirling winds of change. Concurrently, workers were becoming more independent, and interdependent. Workers wanted to manage themselves, and they rejected traditional forms of command and control management in favor of leadership based models.The attributes of a good manager in a command and control structure were shifting to attributes that comprise the modern leadership model of business governance. Combine the expectation of worker independence with initiatives to “flatten” organizations, and what we knew, as managers suddenly must adapt, taking on leadership behavioral attributes to continue to be successful. Under this scenario, middle managers now have broader spans of control, and work is accomplished in self-directed teams through organizational matrices. Titles change from supervisor to team lead, from manager to team coordinator reflecting a softer approach to traditional leadership.After a degree of research, I was able to build a contemporary list of observable behavioral attributes common to those engaged in management activities and leadership activities. Two interesting revelations occurred as I created these lists. The first was the pure number of search “hits” using “behavioral attributes of a manager” (27 hits) and “behavioral attributes of a leader” (6 hits). This unscientific result runs contrary to my earlier position that the number of behavioral characteristics attributed to managers would be less than the number attributed to leaders since great leaders have often been great managers too. The second interesting revelation was that many of the behavioral attributes required to describe a manager were necessary to describe a leader.As you view and consider the observable leadership behaviors above, inevitably, certain names come to mind we associate with the list of leadership attributes. Names such as Max DuPree, James Cash Penney, Mary Kay Ash, and Herb Kelleher come to mind. These people embodied leadership attributes in their approach to business and many of the leadership behavioral attributes are consistently present in each of these leaders. In addition, these leaders exhibited ethereal behaviors also associated with leaders such as compassion, empathy, morality, honesty, and integrity. Although these behaviors are not as easily observed, they represent the intrinsic beliefs that influence every decision and action these and other leaders make. Careful study of their businesses will reveal these behavioral attributes carefully woven into the culture and fabric of their businesses.Notice that throughout the discussions above, there is no reference to either age or gender because neither is a limiting factor or an enabling factor. There are successful managers who are older and younger women and men. There are successful leaders who are older and younger women and men. Notice also that no reference has been made to location/region, cultural, or education. That is because demographics are neither a limiting factor nor and enabling factor. Successful leadership is not limited to regional, educational, or cultural factors. History has proven this to us repeatedly through the emergence of business leaders from all corners of the world.Instinctively, each of us seems to be able to separate leaders from managers when the observable leadership behavioral characteristics are clearly manifest in leaders and aspiring leaders. While we are not all MBA’s, nor do we carry tidy checklists around in our pockets, we learn to recognize those who deftly apply true business leadership characteristics through their observable actions and consistent ability to lead.For those in leadership positions looking for guidance and direction in the selection of managers, potential leaders and executive leadership, this article provides you with a practical framework from which to do your analysis. For those in leadership positions looking to grow leaders from management stock, this article begins the process of identifying potential nascent leaders. Whether you are hiring or grooming internal leadership, remember that good managers may not always translate to good leaders and that observable differences exist between the two.