Manager or leader?

18 12 2008

One of the frequently discussed issues is the difference between management and leadership.

It is generally held that management is about the maintenance of stability whereas leadership mitigates change. Management is the universalist application of a set of defined principles derived from academic study of  practice. This is contrasted with the rationality, craft, vision, creativity and innovation that it is believed leaders display.

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It is tempting to apply these concepts to individuals almost in a pejorative manner embodying all that is poor in managers and all that is desirable in leaders.

And yet this must be false. Managers are not forced to apply principles in practice that they find useless and many display creativity and vision in leading their teams. Similarly, not all leaders achieve success and many show irrationality, failure to observe clear signs and a total lack of craft.

Is it not true perhaps that to be an effective manager requires some of the skills of leadership and that the most effective leaders achieve this by application of management principles, even if these are self derived?

In fact, are not excellent leaders and excellent managers perhaps close to being one and the same thing?

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