Understanding the Difference Between Management and Leadership

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According to the current wisdom, managers are principally administrators—they write business plans, set budgets and monitor progress. Leaders on the other hand, get organizations and people to change. That's true, as far as it goes, but there is a more useful distinction between management and leadership: Management is a function that must be exercised in any business, leadership is a relationship between leader and led that can energize an organization. Of course, the management function can include problem solving and facilitating meetings as well as the traditional bureaucratic tasks. However, it is not necessary for the same person in a group to exercise all these tasks. Different people can take on parts of the management function. Someone on a team can do the planning. Another person can do the budgeting. A third teammember can monitor quality. Members of a team can take turns facilitating meetings. The team as a whole can share responsibility for meeting performance targets. In other words, you don't need managers to produce good management.

I have seen a number of cases in which teams have been able to determine for themselves which management tasks they wish to perform as a group, which ones individual team members wish to take on, and which they will delegate to a manager.

If you gave this choice to members of a technical staff, they might decide they wanted a manager to take care of the bureaucratic stuff so they could remain free to do more interesting work —like science!. Typically, technical staff, like professionals in other fields, don't like to evaluate or discipline colleagues. They would rather hire a manager to do that kind of dirty work.

However, at the GE/Durham plant that assembles engines for the Boeing 777, there are 170 employees and only one manager, according to Fast Company (Oct. 1999). There are nine teams, each with only one directive: the day their next engine must be loaded. Teams decide who does which work; they...
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