2 min read

Is there really a difference between Management and Leadership? Yes. But the difference should not be understood as leadership versus management, as though one were superior to the other. They are different, often conflicting, yet complementary functions in any organization.

Here are some metaphors describing the difference between management and leadership:

Management Leadership
looks for calm waters rides the wave of the future
shows us how to climb ladders makes sure the ladder is
leaning against the right wall
works to domesticate the beast just wants to ride the beast
tries to keep the fire in the fireplace ignites the fire
creates stabilizing reinforcement shakes the foundations

Leadership and management are opposite poles of a dynamic tension that must exist for healthy organizations. Not all great leaders can also be great managers. But great leaders know that to fill that need they must have some great managers on their team.

In their role as organizational futurists, leaders need to be willing to be the only ones who “see it” . . . until they can help others to see it as well. They push the envelope of change just as the others are beginning to settle into the comfort of routine.

Management, on the other hand, is occupied in trying to . . .
turn the chaos into orderly routines, . . .
stem the tide of ambiguity, and
automate the processes of functionality.

Management and leadership are morally neutral concepts. I don’t mean that managers or leaders are morally justified in all that they do. All I’m saying with that is that the distinction between management and leadership is not a moral distinction. The managers and the leaders, as individuals, and as a group, bring their morality to the workplace.

Leadership can become immoral when it isolates itself from the constraints of management. And management can become immoral when it resists changes that are needed for the long-term sustainability of the organization.

The goal should not be to transform management into leadership but rather to assist both functions toward continuous improvement. The goal is also to help the team recognize the inherent tension between these two functions and to appreciate the contribution of both.

What do you think? Please share your insight on this ongoing debate in the comments section below.

P.S.: Can you guess where the photo was taken?


Lead photo by author.

Portrait of Dr. Waddell

Dr. Greg Waddell is passionate about helping church leaders equip their people for ministry. He believes there is wild potential in every believer that begs to be released. He can help you develop and implement practical strategies for increasing the ministry capacity of your congregation.