Understanding Management and Leadership

Understanding Management and Leadership

Understanding Management and Leadership


Management and leadership are complex processes that are critical for large corporations. Comparing the functions and attributes of leaders and managers is important to clarify the roles that each process plays in an institution. Although differences exist between leaders and managers, the two processes can work together successfully for the mutual benefit of a business. At the same time, some people can be effective leaders and managers concurrently. For various reasons, most organizations lack dependable leaders, which are costly, but often correctable. Leadership is essential to give a firm direction, align its activities to the vision, and overcome all its challenges as the management operationalizes the vision through planning.


The success or failure of an organization hinges on the type of leaders at the helm. Leaders influence followers to change the fortunes of a firm, which in turn benefits all the stakeholders. In most cases, leaders do not impose any decision on the followers but inspire them to come up with solutions together (Jokinen, 2005). Some people believe that they are above the followers, yet to be a good leader; one must be a follower to set an example to the rest of the team (Hoy & Smith, 2007). Active followers become the best leaders because they carry out their duties with passion and enthusiasm. They are confident to stand out for what they believe. Effective leaders and followers may be the same individuals playing different roles on different occasions. At the very best, leadership is about taking responsibility for their actions and those of their followers.

Evolution of Leadership Theories

In the pre-industrial and pre-bureaucratic era, leadership was explained using the Great Man approach. The Great Man theory concept explains the role of historical heroes in achieving crucial victories for their communities (Byham, Smith, & Paese, 2002). In most cases, the individual would use their charisma, intelligence, political skill, or wisdom during stressful periods and assist the society overcome major problems. The approach was developed by Thomas Carlyle but was later countered by Herbert Spencer in 1860 who insisted that such individuals were the product of their societies. Subsequent social, political, and economic histories de-emphasize the place of great men (Kotter, 1999). During this period, most organizations were small and run by individuals with the assistance of relatives and friends. Their engagement in the business was not because of their qualifications. The trait and Great Man theories aptly describe this type of leadership.

An era of hierarchy and bureaucracy followed the Great Man Theory. During this era, the organizations were large, requiring rules to ensure proper management and standards to ensure efficiency in its operations (Winkler, 2010). It saw the rise of the rational manager who had a duty to control and direct others. The second generation of leaders is described using behavior and contingency theories. The third era of evolution refers to the team and change leaders. The period saw the emergence of knowledge work, horizontal organizations, and a departure towards influence theories. It was no longer about a single person being firmly in charge of a firm (Maxwell, 1995). In this case, leadership became a shared responsibility among team members and leaders. The attention shifted to the person with the most knowledge or expertise guiding the rest of the team members.

The fourth stage of evolution refers to the modern type of leaders that has its basis in relational theories. It also argues that they are agile individuals who concentrate on developing relationships and networks. They influence their colleagues through vision, values rather than through management control. These types of leaders are always experimenting regularly. They are still learning and changing in their professional and personal lives (McCall, 1998). They also encourage the development of others so that they can become better employees and contribute to the innovation for the betterment of the firm.

One of the most important features that distinguish leadership from management is the use of the Traits Theory. The approach argues that leaders have innate characteristics that distinguish them from the rest of society. The theory suggests that they have attributes such as assertiveness, persistence, adaptability, and dependability among many other attributes. The suggestion that the characteristics are innate creates controversy (Lunenburg, 2011, p.1). However, it allows testing whether the traits develop as an individual grows or not. It identifies what general features make a successful leader. However, the traits theory does not address how it differs from the Great Man theory (Sturdy, 2004). Critics argue that the only difference between the two is the addition of characteristics that can be verified using scientific methods such as brain scan.

The traits approach of explaining leadership leaves some questions unanswered especially if leaders are born or can they can learn the skills through experiences. It also raises questions about whether leading is an art or a science or it is a combination of the two (Daft, 2014). It may be a technique that requires the application of specialized skills. Although leaders may possess some inborn qualities, they may need to develop some skills. For example, all people are not born with self-confidence. However, one can learn to be confident and decide to live a life of integrity and honesty (George, 2003). Other skills such knowledge in business are acquired through education and experience. The ability to motivate colleagues can come from within the individual. At the same time, while cognitive abilities have its origins in the genes of a person, it needs to be developed over time because they do not develop overnight. 

Leadership is thought to be an art and a science. It is an art because most of the attributes of leaders are unique and do not exist in textbooks. Leadership is actualized through practice and hands-on experience. It also develops through intense personal exploration and development. Leading is also a science because there is a growing body of knowledge and facts that describe the processes of leadership and how to use the skills and qualities of the leaders to attain organizational goals (Bass & Avolio, 1994). Learning about research helps in the analysis of situations to enable the leader to decide how to be useful from various perspectives. It is critical to learn about the types of leadership because the time of the success or failure of the firm is in the hands of the leaders.


Management actualizes the vision of the firm by formulating organizational goals and ensuring that they are implemented efficiently. Management is characterized by planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling the firm’s resources. In the past, managers held control over employees. The field of management is undergoing a revolution that asks managers to do more with less, to see change as natural, to inspire vision and cultural values, and to allow people to create a collaborative workplace (Ashford & DeRue, 2012, p.148). They are also engaging employees’ minds and hearts as well as tapping into their physical energies. They also have to provide a working environment that is productive for all stakeholders. In summary, the modern manager is an enabler who helps individuals do the best they can to achieve the organizational goals.

The manager sets the objectives of the firm, organizes work schedules, motivates and communicates, measures the targets, and develops the employees. One of the most critical roles of the manager is to plan. Planning identifies the future goals of a firm, including deciding the tasks and the resources needed to achieve them. Moreover, plans indicate the aspirations of the organization and the steps that the manager and his team will take to achieve them. It includes providing timetables and guidelines, and then providing the resources to accomplish the set objectives (Daft, 2014). After planning, the management staff organizes the employees under their control. They establish an organizational structure and develop the jobs that would achieve all the arrangements.

Consequently, the managers looks for the qualified individuals for the work, communicates the plan, assigns the tasks, and groups them into departments, delegating authority and allocating resources across the firm. Also, the managers establish systems to monitor the implementation of the business plan. Management also entails controlling and problem-solving. In this case, the manager has to track the results through formal and informal systems. Formal structures include receiving regular reports and holding regular meetings to identify shortcomings (Kotter, 2008). Managers have to motivate and communicate with their teams to actualize their plans.

Comparing Leadership and Management

Comparing and contrasting management and leadership can be approached through five broad areas, namely: direction, alignment, relationships, personal qualities, and outcomes. Leaders generate the corporate philosophies such as vision and mission, which give the firm direction. Also, the manager plans and then creates the budget. The managers’ focus is on getting immediate results and making profits for the firm as soon as possible. On alignment, the manager has to organize staff, control and direct them, and create a structure (Kotter ix). The duties of the leader in this regards include the creation of shared organizational values and culture, provision of learning opportunities and generation of business networks. Leadership ensures that the people align in the direction the organization is taking and that they understand and accept the course. The alignment process is a significant communication challenge that is different from design problems that the management teams have to handle.

In regards to relationships, the manager focuses the people on specific goals using their positions of authority. Manager also invests on goods and services while the leader invests in people. They use their influence to inspire confidence and trust in the organization. They also deliver on the promises they give to all the stakeholders and in the process develop long-lasting relationships (Kotter x). However, leaders achieve these objectives by spending more time with the workers. The manager and the leader have different qualities that they use to achieve their goals.

In most cases, managers are not emotional with their subordinates while that is a strength that the leaders use to connect with the workers to help them achieve their set objectives. In many institutions, the manager is employed to assist the organization in achieving its goals because they are experts in specific fields (Byham, Smith, & Paese, 2002). Therefore, they come to an institution with a closed mind; their focus is on the particular areas of their specialty. On the contrary, leaders are open-minded individuals who pursue excellence at the workstation without a fixed point of view. They are open to suggestions from the various experts with whom they serve their organization. 

The manager and leader also differ regarding the modes of communication that they apply in their workplaces. In most cases, leaders listen more to the needs of their colleagues and target customers. By listening more, they appreciate the needs and take suggestions from their subordinate members of staff. As a result, they can raise teams that understand the vision of the firm. Employees who participate in developing the objectives of the firm with their leaders are more likely to work towards achieving their targets than the ones who received directions from their managers (Daft, 2014). In direct opposition to this, managers’ preferred mode of communication is talking to the employees and leading them towards achieving the vision of the firm.

On personal qualities, most managers are individuals who conform to the needs of the firm while leaders do not comply. The inquisitive nature of the leaders allows them to ask questions about the culture and processes in the organization. In the process, they cause adjustments in the modes of operations in a firm, which may be beneficial to all the stakeholders involved in the business. Managers pay more attention to meeting the vision of the firm and ensuring that the officers under them follow the operational guidelines provided by the firm (Daft, 2014). Managers are critical pillars in a firm because the outcome that they seek to achieve is to maintain the stability of an organization and create a culture of efficiency. They also create a culture of integrity in the firm by constantly interacting with the workers and encouraging them to uphold ethical practices.

In most cases, leaders give the direction that they expect the firm to take, which is often confused with planning, which is a management process. The ability to guide a firm gives rise to its vision and corporate strategies, which is different from the plan. Visionary leaders deliver the followers with the missions, which provide the roadmap towards achieving the objectives of the firm. From there, managers take over and plan and then offer budgets to meet the targets.

Leaders are always in the organization for the long-term while the managers pursue short-term. They focus on what they have to do that is beneficial to the organization in the long-term. Managers, on the other hand, work to receive their salaries and therefore focus on the short-term profitability to sustain their paycheck (Kotter, 1999). Managers and other junior officers are always on the move seeking employment from one organization to another. They do not concentrate on current jobs. Thus, they cannot assist with long-term planning. In some cases, managers are paid bonuses for achieving specific targets. Therefore, their focus is on achieving short-term goals.

Leaders coach and create fans while managers direct and have employees. Staff guided by managers’ work to please them and all the follow orders. Leadership assumes that the people who work under them have answers to all the problems that they may encounter at the work station. Leaders believe that their workers are competent and are optimistic that the ability of the employees to deliver on the objectives of the firm. They resist the temptation to tell individuals what to do, believing that they can handle the duties (Kotter, 1999). Managers assign tasks to all the employees and guide then on what to do to achieve positive results.

Cases Studies

The example of in-expensive Kentucky Fried Chicken shows that inspiring and motivating leadership can transform an organization. From 1978, CEO Dick Mayer turned the shrinking business with annual revenue of $ 1.5 billion to a firm generating more than $5 billion in sales (Kotter, 2008, p. 68). The secret was transformative and inspiring leadership. During the difficult period, Mayer researched to understand the market and discovered that the food that was popular at Macdonald was a non-expensive sandwich (a hamburger selling at 29 cents). Additional data from similar retail outlets showed the same trends (Kotter, 2008, p. 68). In consultation with the senior management of the firm, Mayer had to provide direction and guide the development of a product that would transform the firm for the next decades. The project involved all the senior managers, and the result is that the transformation not only made it a household name in the United States but also in the global market. At the core of the reforms at Kentucky Fried Chicken was the presence of a visionary leader who prevented the company from collapsing and allowed it to re-engineer itself.

The same trend of direction setting of leaders is observable from the Travel Related Services arm of the American Express from 1978 to 1988. The firm began in the 1850s, and one of its main products was a money order that was supposed to reduce the risk of robberies when transferring money from one region of the United States to another. By the 1970s, the American Express Card and travelers’ checks the money order had been replaced (Kotter, 2008, p.40). While the services were successful, the firm was facing challenges associated with a maturing business facing intense competition. During this awkward moment, the firm made Lou Gerstner its president in 1979. He began by asking fundamental questions about the money-losing travel division and the competitive nature of the card business. He also asked critical questions about the competition, the market, and economics. As the enquiring continued, it led to a deeper understanding of the business by all the senior managers who were then able to cascade the message to the rest of the workers. Within a short period of taking over the company, managers began to appreciate the importance of customer satisfaction and how to innovate. Through the constant conversation with the stakeholders, a new vision began to emerge (Kotter, 2008, p.41). The employees and the market started to appreciate that TRS was a dynamic and growing enterprise that was economically prosperous.


Management and leadership are critical topics in business management. While the two differ significantly, it is crucial for the two processes to work together to achieve the objectives of the firm. On the one hand, leadership gives the direction that the firm is to take in the long-term; it is important to work alongside the management teams whose targets are short-term, but needed for the good of the business. The visionary leaders see the organization in the next three or five decades to come while the managers target the results for the end of the financial year. Thus, leadership and management process differ significantly and are needed in an organization for diverse reasons.

Reference List

Ashford, S.J. and DeRue, D.S., 2012. Developing as a leader: The power of mindful engagement. Organizational Dynamics, 41(2): pp.146-154.

Bass, B.M. and Avolio, B.J. eds., 1994. Improving organizational effectiveness through transformational leadership. London: Sage

Byham, W.C., Smith, A.B. and Paese, M.J., 2002. Grow your own leaders: How to identify, develop, and retain leadership talent. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey : Prentice Hall.

Daft, R.L., 2014. The leadership experience. South-Western, Australia: Cengage Learning.

George, B., 2003. Authentic leadership: Rediscovering the secrets to creating lasting value. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass: John Wiley & Sons.

Hoy, W.K. and Smith, P.A., 2007. Influence: a key to successful leadership. International journal of educational management, 21(2): pp.158-167.

Jokinen, T., 2005. Global leadership competencies: a review and discussion. Journal of European Industrial Training, 29(3): pp.199-216.

Kotter, J.P., 1999. John P. Kotter on what leaders really do. Boston: Harvard Business Press.

Kotter, J.P., 2008. Force for change: How leadership differs from management. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Lunenburg, F.C., 2011. Leadership versus management: A key distinction—at least in theory. International Journal of Management, Business, and Administration, 14(1): pp.1-4.

Maxwell, J.C., 1995. Developing the leaders around you: How to help others reach their full potential. Nashville, Tennessee: HarperCollins Leadership.

McCall, M.W., 1998. High flyers: Developing the next generation of leaders. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Press.

Sturdy, A., 2004. The adoption of management ideas and practices: Theoretical perspectives and possibilities. Management Learning, 35(2): pp.155-179.

Winkler, I., 2010. Contemporary leadership theories: Enhancing the understanding of the complexity, subjectivity and dynamic of leadership. Heidelberg: Physica-Verlag: Springer Science & Business Media.



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