I have written a little on leadership. It is difficult to continue a discussion of leadership without mentioning its close relation, management. Because there is great overlap in the activities of these disciplines they are often, erroneously, used interchangeably. In a sense they are twins constantly being mistaken for each other as they try to assert their differences. In this essay I will discuss the similarities and differences between leadership and management before attempting to define management.

The main similarity is fundamental; both disciplines involve that attainment of goals through directing the efforts of other people. In both disciplines the major activities are planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling. These similarities are likely the cause of most of the confusion between the two.

The activities of each of these disciplines overlap a great deal; however the sources of power are distinct. Management is an organizational function. A manager’s power precedes from their position within an organization. A leader’s power can precede from their position within an organization, but a leader can achieve goals without a position of formal authority because their power precedes from charisma or social capital.

Another basic difference is in the aims of the disciplines. Management is interested in the effective and efficient use of organizational resources toward organizational goals. The activities of a manager are geared toward the smooth running of their unit. If a manager can make incremental changes that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization, so much the better. However, management is greatly concerned with maintaining the status quo.

A leader works toward making profound changes to the status quo; or even upending of the status quo. A leader is concerned with building something that did not exist before. Leadership concerns itself with effecting change.

I defined leadership “as the ability to inspire or influence others to work towards the leader’s stated goal(s).” Management can be similarly defined. Therefore, it is important that the definition of management point to its function within an organization. I am unable to find a better definition than that given by John P. Kotter (2013), “management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well.”


Kotter, J.P. (2013, January 9). Management is (still) not leadership. Harvard Business Review, digital article. Retrieved from

Published by Leo

Leo Barrera Expert at dealing with conflict. Grim, determined, a little chaotic, a threat to good order. Veteran. Chicano. Husband. Father. Writer. Photographer. Gardener.

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