When I think back throughout my career and apply the concepts of what is true leadership looks like, I can easily recognize the difference between managers and leaders. In the literal sense, a manager is tasked with “planning, organizing, staffing and controlling” (Northouse, 2015 p. 13). The concept of managing is seemingly very task oriented and maintains a high sense of control over subordinates with little autonomy. Managers are there to simply “provide order and consistency to organizations” (Northouse, 2015 p. 13). With management there is a somewhat militant vibe, with managers having a high level of control over their support staff. Employees typically do not have any say in how and when tasks are completed, and have many precise, stiff rules to follow.
While management is a necessary aspect to operating any organization effectively, management without leadership can be “stifling and bureaucratic” (Northouse, 2015 p. 13). I’m certain every person reading this can name off several examples of a manager they have worked for that exhibited zero leadership skills. Working for an individual like this can have a detrimental effect on employee morale and organizational results.
I once worked for someone that was the quintessential example of a manager with little leadership ability. This individual was so focused on controlling every bit of our work that we were left with no motivation and poor results. We were told exactly what to do, and when to do it. We were never asked for insight or ideas on how to reach our goals. We were micromanaged to the point where we had to send her text messages every few hours outlining our sales results for the prior hours. When we missed sales goals, it was always our fault and had to draft lengthy “action plans” on how we were going to correct our failure. We were often threatened with corrective action for failure to meet goals. As you can see, this does not create the greatest environment for success. Turnover was high. Employees were burnt out and calling off work often; some even exercising long term FMLA claims for stress. There was no employee development, and no shared vision and no concern for people. While organizations employ managers to ensure there is organization, stability and profitable results, doing so without fostering leadership does not make for more positive outcomes.
The fact is, “both management and leadership are essential if an organization is to prosper” (Northouse, 2015 p 13). It is critical that managers also develop leadership skills in order to be the most effective. Organizations need to ensure they “nourish both competent management and skilled leadership” (Northouse, 2015 p 13) to promote the best results.
So, what transforms traditional management into leadership? Leaders help to create a vision with their followers. As a leader in a sales environment, a leader inspires their sales team to want to meet goals. A leader doesn’t just dictate the plan to meet goals, they collaborate and “develop a culture that encourages, supports and rewards individual and team achievements” (Zimmerman, E.L, 2001). A leader doesn’t rely on power to accomplish goals, “He/she engages willingly in coaching, feedback, recognition, brainstorming and mentoring in order to maximize the enterprise’s results” (Zimmerman, E.L, 2001). A leader understands the human and emotional side to motivating and developing their staff.
While leadership certainly shares functions of management, management without leadership fails to “motivate intrinsically” and fails to allow for “creative thinking, strategic planning, tolerance to ambiguity, being able to read people” (Northouse, 2015 p 15). It is possible, and preferred, that those in leadership positions “combine the best elements of both disciplines most needed for optimum results” (Zimmerman, E.L, 2001).
Northouse, P. G. (2015). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Penn State Canvas Login. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1985970/modules/items/26589411
Zimmerman, E. L. (2001). What’s under the hood? the mechanics of leadership versus management. SuperVision, 62(8), 10-12. Retrieved from http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/195597976?accountid=13158