Leadership Differs From Management
To say that leadership and management are fundamentally different is one of those statements that is both entirely true and woefully inadequate. Academics delight in delineating the differences to make the not-so-subtle point that one can be skilled at management but fall terribly short at leading others. They like to point out that management creates order through process, whereas leadership creates change through vision. Managers create deadlines, while leaders create strategy. Managers apply rules. Leaders motivate. This is mostly right.
Leadership is like playing baseball, while management is like playing shortstop. One is bigger than the other, not just in action but also in thinking. A leader can’t really manage effectively if they don’t connect their daily activities back to leadership — either theirs or someone else’s. Without a tether to values, vision, strategy, and long-range goals, management becomes an isolated activity without a center, without purpose. But being a strong leader doesn’t equate to being a sound manager any more than knowing baseball allows you to excel at shortstop. A leader may make quality decisions but without the ability to get others to execute those decisions, those decisions really don’t matter. What confounds this even further is that any action can reflect either leadership or management.
Is giving feedback a management or a leadership skill? The answer: It all depends on how it gets done. When any action is grounded in values it becomes a matter of leadership. Leadership is inherently big picture (think relationships, not just strategy) and value-driven. Feedback can carry a deep and important relationship meaning important to achieve team goals (“I have confidence that you can do this”) or it can be offered as a judgment about performance to correct an error (“shorten your presentation and make it punchy”). This is the real difference between leadership and management. They are not unique activities. They are unique expressions of the same activity.