Leadership and management, although often thought of or referenced as synonyms, are actually quite different. Of course, the debate could rage on whether or not they should be different, but there is really no debate on whether they are. This is not to say that they are mutually exclusive. One can be a manager and a leader. Leadership, by its very nature, implies vision and forward momentum. It implies a destination. Management, on the other hand, implies status quo. Management implies dealing with the here and now. Often these days the word “leader” has come to mean some sort of positional authority, of course implying that the higher one may be in organization the more “leadership” they might have. There is this gap, or breakdown, that exists between true leadership and positional leadership. The fact is, leadership has little to do with positional authority.
In his book, “Developing the Leader Within You”, John Maxwell writes of the five levels of leadership. Figure one bellow outlines these leadership levels, showing clearly that leadership based exclusively upon positional status is hardly leadership at all.
Figure 1, “Developing the Leader Within You”, John Maxwell, pg. 13
Our ability to truly lead anyone at this “managerial” level of leadership is quite limited. We often assume that, because someone has a certain position title, they have a certain level or leadership. This just isn’t the case. Real leadership is not just technical training, knowledge, or authority. As Maxwell writes, it is influencing people, development, vision, and confidence. Author Jim Collins also discuss this higher “Level 5” of leadership in his book, “Good to Great”. Figure two bellow shows Collins five levels of leadership, which also places managerial type or position based leadership low in effectiveness.
Figure 2, “Good to Great”, Jim Collins, pg. 20
You see, leadership has very little to do with position and very much to do with personal humility and a developmental mindset. Of course if this is true, than it is also true that leadership does not only sit at the most senior positions of an organization. Leadership can sit in any position of an organization where these qualities exist. As Peter Senge writes, leaders can and must exist at every level of an organization for it to be sustainable and successful. Viewing leadership as a function of position is not only inaccurate, it can cause two distinct pitfalls. First, viewing leadership as a function of position can cause an organization to struggle to shed the status quo. If the leadership of an organization is management, there is going to be a serious lack of vision and direction. Managers are focused on the here an now. They are responsible to operate the business, putting out the fires, and meet the bottom line. All though all of these tasks are very much needed, none of them will keep an organization moving forward. Secondly, viewing leadership as a function of position will lead companies to miss fully engaging their true leaders at every level of the company. Successful companies develop their people and lean on their leaders at each and every level, no matter what the position or title. Companies that see leadership as only a function of higher level management titles will fail to identify mid level and front line leadership. Organizational leadership and organizational management are quite different, but both are needed. The intent of this blog is not to show that leadership is a higher calling or of more importance than management. Management deals with our reality. Leadership, though, must be viewed independently of organizational position. Furthermore, organizations must look to develop and invest in leaders at all levels to be sure that progress and momentum are sustained.