Developing Leadership and Management Skills


The world is filled, and perhaps even saturated, with organizational leaders who maintain that management and leadership are synonymous. Management is a set of processes that can keep a complicated system of people and technology running smoothly (Kotter, 2012). Leadership is a set of processes that create organizations or adapts them to significantly changing circumstances. Both involve system processes and perhaps this is where the definition gets blurred.  Leaders create and help employees adapt to change but true management comes into play after a system has already been put in place.

Leaders have vision and produce dramatic change while managers have plans and produce order and short-term results (Kotter, 2012). “Individuals who can lead change with minimal disruption rise above the rest” (Hoyle. 2007, p.12) because change is, based on the very essence of the word, dynamic. Consequently, it requires that leaders think and act in new ways as time progresses. Managers, conversely, align their thinking and actions based on budgets and plans. They produce order and generally expect that actions and behaviors of others will be predictable and somewhat stagnant.  Management skills are important to organizational success because organizations exist to produce outputs. Therefore, managers must be skilled in managing information in order to influence others to take necessary actions. These skills may include being able to manage action directly by first managing individuals in order to encourage them to take necessary actions (Mintzberg, 2011).

Management is not as clear-cut as some may believe. In fact, it requires a significant level of commitment and skills to master. Quinn (2011) suggests that in order to be an effective manager, an individual must develop the skills to recognize the positive and negative of all aspects of the organization and assess and work on the roles and skills of those associated with the organization. Additionally, she must analyze the present organizational moment while trusting her “own ability to integrate and employ the skills appropriate to that moment” (Quinn, 2011, p.84).

Leadership is not necessarily straight forward either.  It is hinged on having a vision for the future and aligning employees to it (Kotter, 2012). Leaders must understand, however, that there is the possibility of different futures, and there lies the opportunity to shape those futures (Hoyle, 2007).  Furthermore, even though a leader may have a vision she must be skilled in guiding others in embracing it and in guiding them through the steps for change. This is especially necessary in organizations where bureaucratic cultures smother those who want to respond to shifting conditions (Kotter, 2012). As such, a leader must be able to motivate, inspire, and energize people to overcome those bureaucracies and other barriers “to change by satisfying basic, but often unfilled human needs” (Kotter, 2012, p. 29).  Leadership is “the ability that an individual demonstrates to influence others to act in a particular way through direction, encouragement, sensitivity, consideration, and support” (Robbins, DeCenzo, & Wotler, 2013, p. 229). During management, the detailed steps for achieving desired results are usually established and the associated actions and behaviors are often predictable. However, if an individual is to lead an ongoing change process then she must recognize that there will be the need to increase flexibility including in policy making and implementation (Hoyle, 2007).

While there are distinct differences between leadership and management, the key to an effective organization is one in which both good leadership and good management is combined (Kotter, 2012).

[excerpt from doctoral paper 8/13]

Hoyle, J. (2007). Leadership and futuring: Making visions happen (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Kotter, J. (2012). Leading change. Boston, MA, Harvard Business Review.

Mintzberg, H. (2011). The manager’s job. In J.S. Osland & M.E. Turner (Eds.), The organizational behavior reader (9th ed.), 62-75

Quinn, R.E. (2011). Mastering competing values: An integrating approach to management. In J.S. Osland & M.E. Turner (Eds.), The organizational behavior reader (9th ed.), 75-84.

Robbins, S.P., DeCenzo, D.A., &Wotler, R. (2013). Supervision today! (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.