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Management vs. Leadership

One of the long-running debates among business experts is about the difference between management and leadership. Consultant Jesse Lyn Stoner, on her blog, offers an interesting perspective from her mid-1980s dissertation at the University of Massachusetts.

She got 500 employees to rate their bosses on how much they demonstrated visionary leadership skills and management skills, and was able to relate that to the team's performance.

She found, not unexpectedly, that teams with high vision and strong management skills had high performance; while teams with low vision and low management exhibited low performance. As well, teams with low visionary leadership but high management skills performed in the mid-range.

The surprise came with the fourth group, in which visionary leadership was high and management skills of the bosses were poor. She found team performance was still high, despite the deficiency in management skills, and as she dug deeper, she found that the management function was provided from within the team.

"Teams need management skills and visionary leadership skills but the issue is where is it coming from. It's not necessary for the leader to provide management if the team can manage itself. But if the leader doesn't have a vision, the team is not going to do well at all," Ms. Stoner says.

She adds that we have gone overboard in valuing leadership and devaluing management. As her study shows, we need both. And if you can provide both, the focus should be on which behaviour is required at a particular time. Figure out what your team most needs from you now to move ahead.