Managers and leaders ARE different…so what?

trust me

Please indulge me as I repeat one of the most widely used (and possibly one of the most overused) axioms in leadership discussions:

There is a fundamental difference between managers and leaders.

I know, I know…and water is wet…and puppies are cute (well, most puppies)…and, well you get my point.

I’ve contributed to this “axiom abuse” in my own research and writings:

Management vs. Leadership

Many consider the terms “management” and “leadership” to be synonymous – interchangeable and impervious to day, time, and circumstance. One could argue, however that the terms are similar yet different – and knowing the difference is vital to any organization looking to develop true leaders.

There is lots of information floating around the web (and elsewhere) that depict everything from lists of attributes for managers vs. leaders, to cartoons with witty quips and illustrations of the divergent perspectives of managers and leaders. Even today, columnist Ilya Pozin penned an article distinguishing the  contrasting attributes of managers and leaders. 

As cliche-ish and inescapable as it may seem, the fundamental premise of the axiom is true: some managers aren’t effective leaders, and some leaders aren’t effective managers. That realization doesn’t pit one against the other in some lethal fight of good vs. evil. It does, however, reinforce the importance of knowing there is a difference, and formulating a plan to address the divide that exists (e.g. competency building, assessments, and other forms of identification and remediation).

Sure, some things are “common sense” and easily recognizable, but that doesn’t negate the facts contained within them.


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