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Leadership vs. Management

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What determines the success of an organization? There is not one simple answer to this question, but indeed several factors involved. Although, there are several factors that play a role in the success of an organization, I’ll focus on two of the most important ones: leadership and motivation. In the absence of either of the two entities the likelihood of an organization achieving its goals would decrease immensely. Likewise, another factor affecting an organization’s success is the role of both its leaders and managers respectively; their roles cannot be stressed enough in relation to the success of an organization. There are both differences and similarities in the role that each play in an organization’s infrastructure and I’ll explain these as well. While serving in the U.S Air Force, I worked for both managers and leaders, and learned much about the significance of them both. Now, let’s turn our attention to the subject of leadership and the tool often used by leaders called motivation. The role of leadership in an organization is one of upmost importance. It can be defined as the ability to influence people to willingly follow one’s guidance or adhere to one’s decisions.

In order to be effective, leaders sometimes influence people through the use of motivation; informal organizational leaders use a combination of referent and expert power to motivate others. The term motivation refers to anything that activates human behavior, directs this behavior toward goal accomplishment, and also the ability to sustain this behavior. Simply noted, leaders know how to motivate people; great leaders utilize more than one single approach to motivation. In certain situations, leaders may or may not have any formal authority; this lack of formal authority is substituted by power obtained by possessing knowledge or strong personal characteristics. House and Aditya (1997) describe leadership as generally involving articulation of an organizations vision. The person in the leadership role introduces organizational change, provides inspiration, and deals with the stressful and troublesome aspects of the external environment of the organization.

Now, let’s focus on management and the role it plays in the success of an organization. The functions of management are equally important as the role of leadership in an organization. Management can be defined as the ability to handle or direct with a degree of skill, to make and keep compliant, to treat with care, and to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction of a business (Kinnes, 2004). Effective business skills are imperative to provide the best quality service to people. Typically, companies focus on profit, market share or growth, but in order to maintain productivity, first-class management skills are essential. Management skills are not easy to come across, as they are hard to learn and quantify. Most managers come from within an organization, as it is imperative to send employees through management skills courses. Management is the process of planning, organizing, staffing, motivating, and controlling through legitimate power (Rue & Byars, 2009). The main aim of a manager is to maximize the output of the organization through administrative implementation. There are several similarities between leadership and management.

One example comes in the form of hierarchical position within an organization. Most of the time, leaders hold some kind of management position within a company which provides them with formal authority and legitimate, reward, and coercive power as well. Most members of upper management gauge a manager’s success by statistical figures; this ties in greatly to how a manager leads the different employees in a company. One leadership quality is to have the approval and positive relationship with employees. If employees do not respect their manager then his or her work will probably will reflect this fact. Employees will not be willing to go the extra mile for their manager; they will only accomplish the bare minimum or the least of what is required of them. In return, the numbers of the company will not be as good and it will look bad for the manager. Many leaders are ones that take charge or are vocal; this is important in fulfilling the position as manager as well. There are rarely successful managers that are soft spoken or that are afraid to be vocal and take the lead if necessary. No one would ever reach a management position if he or she were failed to communicate or take charge.

Another important leadership quality, a manager must possess is the ability to build relationships with employees; this quality ties in directly with the functions of management. As a manager it is important to build positive relationships with employees; establishing a level of trust will go a long way. As a leader it is vital to possess excellent communication skills; these skills are equally important for a manager too. If a manager does not have effective communication skills it’s largely impossible to lead a group of people. One responsibility of a leader is to communicate with employees; communication is needed to direct, lead, and guide others in the achievement of an organization’s mission. Likewise, if a manager does not have exceptional communication skills, then he or she cannot build these relationships. Both managers and leaders are faced with important decision-making opportunities on a daily basis; they must determine the best course of action which reflects the best interest of the organization.

Therefore, it is important leaders and managers to possess sound decision-making skills. A manager will be viewed as a well-respected leader if they possess certain traits as that of a leader. In order to attain such leadership skills many managers attend leadership training and continuous learning courses which range from attending conferences and seminars to attending weekend getaways and team building workshops. Although, there are several similarities between leadership and management there are quite a few differences as well. Management and leadership, two words that are considered synonymous and are often used in the same context, yet they do not mean the same thing and they describe two different concepts. According to the dictionary, management is the act, manner or practice of managing; handling, supervision, or control (American, 2000). In many organizations management is a job description; leadership is a positive trait. Leadership is a facet of management, and is just one of the many assets a successful manager must possess in order to be effective. Also, care must be taken in distinguishing between the two concepts; both concepts are needed for an organization to be successful. Leadership and management together will build and maintain a successful organization.

A manager’s role can differ from that of a leader in a few aspects. A manager is often someone who is expected to handle or direct an organization with a certain degree of skill. Thus, if a person is considered a proven leader that doesn’t automatically equate to them having the ability to lead an organization. For example, in the sport of football the quarterback is an important player; everything revolves around the quarterback, and he makes all decisions for the offense. If the quarterback does not have excellent leadership skills, then the players around him may not have respect for him; this may result in his teammates failing to play to their greatest potential. Many of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the National Football League (NFL) have been labeled as exceptional leaders; most were known as coaches on the field that commanded the upmost respect from fellow teammates. Unlike managers, the quarterback’s job is not to manage the team; this responsibility lies in the hands of the head coach and his assistants.

Also, the coaches are responsible for management functions such as recruiting and player development. Interest in leadership in the American culture increased in the early twentieth century and continues to development in context. Behavioral theories evolved to today’s transformational leadership and visionary leadership; all these theories are attempting to identify leadership traits and behaviors. In order for any type of organization to succeed organizations need both good management and quality leaders. As many of us have experienced different perspectives with these two great qualities we shall be able to utilize the resources among us and surrounding us to effectively and efficiently produce an organization striving to succeed. Using both management functions and leadership skills we can create a system that motivates employees, does not over manage, and most importantly create an enthusiastic working environment.


Kinnes, T. (2004). The Didactic Pentangle and Triangle. Retrieved December 7, 2012 from
Rue, Leslie W., and Llyod L. Byars.(2009). Management Skills and Application. (13th ed.).
Boston: McGraw-Hill Irwin.
The American Heritage College Dictionary (2000). (3rd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin

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