Leadership vs. Management

What Leaders Really Do

What do you think is most important to succeed at the top of an organization: Leadership or Management? Are they different at all? Is one better than the other?

According to Harvard business professor John P. Kotter , leadership and management are two different systems of action, complementary to each other, and both are required to succeed at the top. Leadership deals with change, while management deals with complexity. When you are in leadership mode, you are “on” the business, setting the direction of your organization, aligning your people, inspiring the heart, and driving change at the right time. When you are in management mode, you are “in” the business, bringing order and predictability to business situations, establishing processes, organizing staff, and controlling/solving problems.

One of the reasons PriSim’s customers send their high-potentials to our courses is that PriSim provides a business laboratory in which participants can enhance their leadership and management skills. In our courses, participants are split into teams. Each team runs own simulated company in a competitive marketplace. The challenge is to improve their company’s performance over several simulated years. To accomplish this, teams have to lead (set the company’s direction/mission/vision, and goals) their company. But also, teams are responsible for managing (executing strategies and tactics) their company over multiple simulated years.

In Kotter’s experience, the most successful companies try to develop their people to become leader-managers. One of our customers (CEO of a top 200 US insurance broker) said it best “A great business person has to be excellent with the telescope and with the microscope”. That is, leadership and management are both equally important. If you want to rise to the top of an organization you have to be able to Lead (excel with the Telescope) and Manage (be great with the Microscope).

[1] John P. Kotter What Leaders Really Do [online]