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Distinction Between Leadership and Management

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The simple question on the distinction between management and leadership is common, yet there are so many different answers that create confusion by academic research. In my research, I use Kotter’s definition because I find it clear and consistent with the definition by most researches that I will discuss later in the paper. Management is to provide order, consistency and stability so mangers are task oriented. On the other hand, leadership is to produce change and movement, seeking adaptive and constructive changes, so leaders set direction, motivate and inspire people (Kotter, 1990, pp. 3-8). Firstly, I will look at what are the definitions and meanings by researches on leadership and management practiced by leaders and managers.

Then, I will outline how leadership and management are distinct yet leaders and managers role are interconnected, and how much they are connected depends on the context, situation, environment and time. This paper will project my view on how the meaning of leadership and management has continued to evolve as expectation of society and organization changes. Managers are expect to step up from the traditional roles and guidelines where their duty is to give proposals, facilitate meetings, set budgets and monitor progress to maintain equilibrium and control. In the 21st century, managers need to adapt and adjust to the dynamic changes in environment. They need to inspire, motivate and be people oriented. Managers are stepping into the world of leaders. Thirdly, I will show how a manager can be a leader and a leader can be a manager too. The same person can be both a leader and manager because it is not an intrinsic or a fixed attribution. People are shape by their experience, background and environment, and this continues to change as the clock ticks. Both management and leadership are required for a successful organization and can be practice simultaneously by an individual, yet both are distinct.

Lastly, I will argue on contradicting arguments on the existence of leadership and shared leadership where opposing views state that leadership and management are the same thing or leadership do not actually exist because it is based on the follower’s perception. This paper concludes that leadership and management are distinctive, leaders and managers are not the same but are interconnected and interdependent, and the degree of integration varies according to the context, situation, environment and time.

Definitions, Meanings and Roles by Researches
Research of leadership started since Aristotle time, an old age concept around for centuries. On the other hand, the role of management was created only later in the 20th century during the industrialized society to maintain order for the chaotic situation. Managers are responsible to ensure organizations run efficiently and effectively (Northouse, 2010, p. 9). Distinctions between leadership and management, leaders and managers have been support by many researches such as below.

Bennis and Nanus quote: “Managers are people who do the things right and leaders are people who do the right things”. They claim “to manage” means to complete task and master routines while “to lead” means to create vision for change and influence others (Bennis W. N., 1985, p. 221).

Rost finds that leadership is multidirectional influence relationship and management is unilateral authority relationship (Rost, 1991, pp. 149-152). Streaker stated managers have subordinates and practice more authoritarian and transactional style. They inform subordinates what they need to do with their position and authority and subordinates follow instructions because they are paid a salary or reward. Managers are task oriented and tell people what to do. Leaders are people oriented and inspire followers to follow their cause, bringing them to the next level of growth despite the leadership style adopted. Managers seek comfort, are more conservative and risk averse, they want to avoid conflict and sail a “happy ship” while leaders are risk taker, seeking opportunity while others see it as a threat. They go off the traditional pathway and seek an unexplored experience. Managers have short-term objectives while leaders have long-term vision. Leaders set direction for followers while manager plan details for subordinates. Leaders are achievement oriented while managers are result oriented (Streaker, 2012). Bennis summarized job description for leader and manager as below (Bennis W. G., 1989, p. 42).

Personal View
I agree there is a difference between leadership and management but it depends on the context, situation, environment and time, such as what type of organization, in what country (culture and expectation plays a role), which era, what type of society, education level of the people and other external factors. My view is that leadership and management attribution, and leader and manager roles are slowly overlapping although they are still distinct, there is an interconnection. To better illustrate my perspective, see diagram below. Leadership and Management are separate (eg: Industrial Era, 17th and 18th century)

Please note how much the two circles overlap are subject to the context, situation, environment and time. Both leadership and management are distinct despite the interference into each other’s zone.

Changes in Expectation from Society and Organization
From my understanding of today’s context, managers cannot solely use the traditional managerial role as guidelines. W e have evolved to be a people oriented society, whether it is for customers or employees. Many companies such as Walmart set their policy as customer is always right and our first priority. Employees are train to have good customer service but if they are unhappy or dissatisfied about the job, they will not provide an excellent customer service and most likely will quit the job. The more educated the society are, the more awareness and exposure employees understand about their rights and their needs. Subordinates know they can always seek union or alternative jobs. Loyalty at work almost ceased to exist with the younger generation. Turnover rates are high in today’s society and it can come at a high cost for the organization. This is why Human Resource Manager has their performance measured on how satisfied the employees are, what are the retention rates and what are the turnover rates. Back in the industrial era, employees are obligated to get the job done despite how dissatisfied they are. It is a different story today.

Managers must know how to influence people to get optimal results, increase effectiveness of every individual to achieve organizational goals (Murray, 2010). As Druker stated, the new era of knowledge workers no longer wants to be manage, they want to be lead, motivated, their strengths to be maximised and utilised (Murray, 2010). This means today’s managers can no longer just manage and control task, they need to get out of the box and live up to the expectation, they need to take the role of a leader, to inspire and motivate. When employees can relate and feel comfortable with the managers, they tend to give managers the respect, be more proactive and work the extra miles. Loyalty comes both ways now, mangers need treat the subordinates well to gain respect and cooperation, it is no longer just a contractual relationship with authority because they are titled as “managers” and subordinates are “paid-to-do-so”.

Streaker supported by stating many management jobs needs to buy hearts of their subordinates to follow them down a challenging path so they act as leaders too (Streaker, 2012). This means the role of leader and manager are highly interconnected in the modern society. However, this is also subject to culture, for example, Japanese workers have good customer service and practice high loyalty and conformity at work compar e to the United States employees. Japanese workers learn to “take-it-in” and they do not show negative emotions in public, they do not resist and quit their job as easily. (James R. Lincoln, Arne L. Kalleberg, 1990). The integration between leadership and management depends on the context, situation, environment and time, in this case, the society expectation, culture and values plays a role.

Managers can be leaders too. Kozak agrees that anyone at any level can play a leadership role with leadership contribution to the organization without top-level position. However, he argues that there must be leadership at the top management in order to succeed (Bertocci, 2009, p. 9).

Meaning of Leaders and Managers Evolving
What is the one thing that can differentiate leaders and managers? Inspiration. How they inspire their followers and stakeholders (Cobell, 2012). Great leaders are those who use their ability to inspire people and unleash hidden potentials. Leader’s duty is to seek the hidden gem, make employees feel important and secure so that the employees are comfortable and trust the leader, then they can activate their inner strength to make things work for the leader (Figliuolo, 2011).

Stodgill’s definition of leadership is someone who is a change agent, able to influence a follower’s behaviour and performance. This is supported by Gibson, Ivancevich and Donnelly, who define leadership as process that one uses non-coercive influence to motivate others to accomplish the desired goals. Other similar findings by Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. Jones also claim a leader is someone who exerts influence on others whether they are informal or formal leaders. (Bertocci, 2009, p. 6).

This means we can find managers who have leadership skills, who know how to inspire people. Does this make the individual a manager or a leader? If a leader is too busy with managerial jobs and forgets to motivate and inspire the people, is he or she a leader or a manager?

My view is that managers can be leaders while leaders can be managers too, the term leadership and management are distinct but the people (leaders and managers) can function together. People do not need to be A or B, they can be both A and B. They can be a leader and a manager simultaneously. Streaker suggests that a good leader and manager require both leadership and management skills. It is how a leader or manager motivates a person to work or follow them that makes them different (Streaker, 2012). This is common in the 21st century. As Ricketts mentioned, family business and small medium enterprise are small scale and have limited resources and manpower. An allrounder is required. Therefore, in some companies, managers are leaders and leaders are managers too. For example, some online business companies are growing rapidly but the manpower can be as small as two to five people (Ricketts, 2009). Sometimes, individual take up roles and responsibilities equivalent to two or three people’s job.

The marketing person also involves in finance and human resource. Managers need to be a people person to get their revenue, how they service their customer is the unique competitive advantage that will bring them profit. Managers also need to motivate and move their people to the next chapter so business can prosper. Managers are intercepting into a leader’s role. An individual can hold both management and leadership responsibility simultaneously, but management is considered a separate term from leadership (Ricketts, 2009). However, Streaker contradicts and argues that the energy that drives a leader is their passion and excitement for work meanwhile the energy for manager is the control and authority where they work for money.

Leaders are proactive and sell followers the ideas and bring them to new roads, managers are reactive and talk about ideas with existing roads (Streaker, 2012). I disagree with this argument because the current environment has allowed managers to be more people oriented, proactive, passionate and inspiring. The environment has change the action, behaviour and thinking of managers. For example, for a partnership business, the owner can be the leader and the manager. Everything is subjective, depending on the context, situation, environment and time. Another illustration, multinational companies or large organizations have expanded globally as the technology breakthroughs are introduced. Leaders can be too busy taking care of their shareholder needs, planning for the next expansion and involved in important decision- making. The lower level subordinates might never have the chance to encounter their toplevel leader in the course of their work, they report and receive direction from their manager.

The highest authority they can probably meet is the head of department or division. This means managers act as leaders for their teams, departments or divisions when the leaders rarely have time to inspire the followers. If the company has a human resource manager, their job is to ensure the employees are motivated, have job satisfaction and progress well in their designated task. They can assist to pass down inspirational messages of the leader to the followers. In the meantime, these top-level leaders can be busy planning, organising, controlling and staffing which are management roles. Does this mean the leader is no longer a leader, they are just a manager? As Ricketts stated, most publications supports the fact that leadership and management are different, but we cannot separate them. They are different yet they come together. W hen leaders are taking management roles, they are operating within management (Ricketts, 2009).

On the other hand, to the leaders such as Chief Executive Officer can be expecting the managers to play the role of a leader while the leaders are busy overlooking at a broader perspective. This means there can be more than one leader in a company if every head of department is a leader. The traditional meaning of a leader has slowly evolved to fit into the society and organization’s expectation. The dynamic environment requires managers to make decision and act fast, direct the pathway and coordinate subordinates. Managers exercise skills that are attributes of a leader. For example, the CEO of ABC organization set its goal to increase profit by 20% this year and diversify the business into XYZ field. Managers are told what the organization and shareholder wants, their role is to plan, propose and implement how that is to be done with the resources provided. Humans are one of the key resources, managers need to know how to move these people to find a sense of purpose and meaning, sense of belongingness and sense of achievement. Managers are no longer in their comfort zone to be “just managers”. Kotter has predicted this change of management role, to be more complex instead of just the manager’s adm inistration and routine work. (Bertocci, 2009, p. 3).

The more capitalized, industrialized and developed the country is, the more overlapping occurs between the role of a leader and manager. The more the organization culture practice empowerment and have flatter operation structure, the more responsibilities the managers are involved in leadership attributes. The key here is that everything is subject to the context, situation, environment and time.

Organizations with a more open and modern culture encourage empowerment. Employees are encouraged to be innovative, proactive and take more responsibility at workplace. Employee who wants to climb the steep corporate ladder will take this opportunity to shine. They will voluntarily share the responsibility of a leader or manager, they seek the sense of achievement for a new project and stretch themselves to the next stage in life (Maccoby, 2000). For example, they will give positive influence and energy to colleagues (role of a leader), ensure rules and policies enforced (role of a manager), speak up and provide constructive feedback to ensure the team project progress well. Bertocci supported by stating a successful leader is one who turns its vision into reality by gaining the personal commitment of a shared vision from managers and empowering managers to achieve them by pushing authority lower in the organization (Bertocci, 2009, p. 16).

In such circumstances, those who aspire to a higher goal will practice leadership skills and cause leadership and management attributes in that organization to be highly interconnected. However, different countries have different culture and environment. In Japan, values such as respect for seniors, teamwork are highly valued, subordinates are expect to follow orders without questioning the seniors, and resistance is seen as disrespectful. People are obedient as they fear of being penalized (James R. Lincoln, Arne L. Kalleberg, 1990, pp. 92-93) . Japanese has a very structured management system. Age and seniority are closely related, a younger person do not have higher level of authority than an older employee (John C. Condon, Tomoko Masumoto, 2010, pp. 15,16,64).

This means individual roles are limited to their position and age. Therefore, how much leadership and management interconnect depends on how wide can these job descriptions and roles expand. In conclusion, both leadership and management are distinct yet they are not easily separated. In fact, they intercept into each other’s role depending on the context, situation, environment and time. Leaders can manage and managers can lead as long as leadership qualities are displayed. In the 21st century, mangers go beyond to nurture skills, develop growth, motivate talent and inspire results.

However, Zaleznik argues that a manager and leader cannot be the same person. Leaders and managers are distinct people with different backgrounds and traits, ways of acting and thinking. Managers are reactive and prefer to work with people to solve problems in a low emotional movement and they act to limit choices (Zaleznik, 1977, May-June, pp. 55, 67-78). I find this perspective too narrow for the modern era, environment plays an essential role in shaping a person’s character, thinking, actions and capabilities. People can change as the environment changes, it is not a fixed element or dispositional attribution. Streaker research support that environment shapes a person capability to perform leadership or/and management.

He stated managers tend to grow up from stable and average income family while leaders are brought up in challenging environments that allow them to have independent perception, analytical skills and dare to challenge. Their handicap in life has makes them stronger and better person to lead (Streaker, 2012). I agree that background on how an individual grow up and what they experience in life shapes them, but these experiences are always evolving as society and environment are changing. A person might be an introvert when they are young but slowly change to an extrovert when they step out to the work force.

Social Psychologists proves that a person’s actions and behaviour is dependent on the social and environmental forces influencing the person, with experiments such as Standford Prison Experiment by Zimbardo, The Obedience to Authority” Experiment by Milgram, “Being Sane in Insane Places” Experiment by Rosenham (Meindl, 1995). With environment shaping a person, I believe leadership and management attributes are variables that can change or develop overtime in an individual; a manager can be train to be a leader while a leader can be a manager too. As Ricketts mentioned, individuals can be a successful manager and leader from the same position. They can work efficiently to master both fields with the right training and development. (Ricketts, 2009)

My view is further support by Northhouse, defining leadership as a “process” means that it is not a born-with-trait by a leader but circumstances that transform the leader to have this relationship with their follower. If leadership is form by a person’s experience, background and environment and not by genetic, this means leadership is available to anyone, not only the leader in the group (Northouse, 2010, p. 3).

Contradicting argument on existence of leadership
Many assumed the existence of leadership without debating. According to Alvesson and Sveningsson, many people including managers themselves are uncertain of the meaning and function of leadership; they provide inconsistent and ambiguity in their answers (Tengblad, 2012, p. 77).

I agree there are limitations in research of leadership and society assumes leadership is essential to be practice for the organization to be successful. Are organizational effectiveness an outcome of leadership? The answers to whether leaders make a difference to organizational functioning have not been satisfactory (Lakomski, 1999, p.36-37). There is no correlation to suggest that a good leader will make an effective organization. Success or failure of the leader might be cause by circumstances or environment. The concept of leadership-follower relationship is complex, uncertain and there is little evidence to prove a cause-effect relationship, as there are so many different leadership styles for different organizations at different context (M. Alvesson, S. Sveningsson, 2003). What is leadership depends on the follower’s perception, the meaning of leadership changes with time. Leadership terms and styles are constantly revised to fit the current environment (Shamir, 1999, p. 68). Some people might experience leadership from an individual in a crisis while the others do not.

The experience of leadership is subjective and dependent on how the receiver interprets the event. Leadership is in the eye of the beholder (Meindl, 1995). If leadership and leaders are just a source of perception, then a leader who is doing a managerial job can be mistaken as practising leadership if the follower chooses to think and believe that way. For example, managers spend long hours checking off the to-do list and leaders nowadays also spend a long time analysing reports, statistics and attending meetings. The confusion starts when people assume leaders should spend their time on important things and when they see leaders constantly engaged in meetings and documentation, people assume these managerial tasks are part of leadership (Figliuolo, 2011). They assume leadership and management are the same.

Follower centric theories emphasize on the “Romance of Leadership” where followers have false assumption and potential bias on the importance of leadership; followers overestimate the leader’s internal disposition while neglecting situational factors (Meindl, 1995, pp. 330340). This is known as fundamental attribution error. This means any action can be seen as leadership or not at all, depending on the follower’s perception (M. Alvesson, S. Sveningsson, 2003, pp. 359-381). Leadership is a “social construction” where followers construct how they expect the leaders to represent and behave. Therefore, leaders can be manipulative, they can create the “right personality” and “experience” under when and what conditions the follower wants (Meindl, 1995). Ladkin describe leadership as “a moment” of social relations.

There will be different situation or context that constitutes to “the pieces” that defines leadership as “the whole” (Ladkin, 2010, p. 26). Here, it can be argued that the leader’s attributes are indistinct compare to the managers because anyone can have leadership contribution, how it is perceive, derive and measured is subjective, individuals may view a leader as effective based on their experience during the process. This means how well they response to the leader direction depends on the followers expectation; it is the followers reaction that conclude the outcome (Bertocci, 2009, p. 10). Since different people define leadership differently, many argued that leadership is not a valid concept, it exist only as a perception in the mind of the observer (Meinolf Dierkes, Ariane Berthoin Antal, Professor John Child, Ikujiro Nonaka, 2001, p. 416) . Anti-leadership denotes the heroic, figure ground leader, as there is no clear evidence that leaders are the one who pushes the organization to success. Miner 1975, Preffer 1977, Aryris 1979 argues leadership does not exist (Lowham, 2007, p. 16). They claim leadership is contextual, and

has an inconclusive relationship with outcome (Lowham, 2007, p. 16). The role of inspiring and motivating is also part of a management role, maybe what people considered to be “leadership” or “management” are actually the same thing. Leadership substitution means organizational context, personal characteristics, or group processes can produce the same effect as leaders who possess interpersonal and hierarchal leadership (Tosi & Kiker, 1997, p.110). Theories on leaderless group and distributed leadership show that many people can share the leadership job and create a more democratic decision making (Vanderslice, 1988, p.679; Gonn, 2003, pp 27-50). A case study of GE/Durham plant that assembles engines for the Boeing 777, this plant has hundred over employees and only one manager, according to Fast Company (Oct, 1999). Team member discuss and decides who does what, the role of the manager is just to listen, inform and maintain the budget and cost. However, to be more effective, the manager takes the role of a leader to inspire and motivate the teams (Maccoby, 2000, pp. 57-59). In such organization, the leaders and managers roles are hard to distinct.

In my view, this just means the role of leaders and managers are highly interconnected. Leadership and management processes are similar in many ways. Leaders influence people, work with people and accomplish goals, which are necessary elements for management too. Many management functions fit into the definition of leadership “a process of an individual influences a group of individuals for a common purpose” (Northouse, 2010, p. 9). The variations in research of what people perceived to be or not to be leadership, whether the interpretation of leadership are follower dependent should not conclude that leadership do not exist or there are no distinctions between leadership and management. I believe leadership exist just that there is no particular or fixed description for it, it continues to evolve according to context, situation, environment and time. There are limitations in research conducted as the environment for leadership experience changes dynamically. There is a shared component (overlap area in circle) where the similarity of job responsibilities and attribution comes into the picture. Leadership and management are different yet they are interdependent and work hand in hand to create organisation effectiveness.

As time pass, the definition and meaning of leadership and management, the role of leaders and managers will be more complex as it continues to integrate, intercept and evolve further according to context, situation, environment and time. Supported by Pearce and Robinson who are convince that the role and meaning of leaders has become more complex and it will continue to be challenging in today’s business world due to the dynamic changes in the environment and globalisation (Bertocci, 2009, p. 3). In my research, I have given examples on people oriented society, online business, multinational companies, empowerment and shared leadership organization to illustrate my view.

Many people use the words leadership and management interchangeably. Everyone has their own perception and meaning. Some people argue it is extreme opposite and a person cannot be a good leader and manager at the same time. While others believe with the right knowledge and skills, a manager can be a good leader and vice versa (Ricketts, 2009). The meaning and role of leadership and management has slowly evolved, what we expect from a leader and manager in the 21st century has changed. Leadership means different things to different people in different context.

In my opinion, managers are leader’s right hand man and in order to have organizational effectiveness, an individual should not limit themselves based on their label, whether they are a “leader”, “manager” or “follower”, they should have the right training and skills of both leadership and management to be successful. A follower can be a leader one day, as leadership are situational attribution shape by the environment and social forces. In conclusion, leadership and management are distinct despite they share similar characteristic. An individual can be a leader and a manager, but this does not mean the terms are the same, the attributions are just overlapping as the environment continues to change. I encourage more academic research on leadership and management as the world continue to evolve.


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