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The Difference Between Management and Leadership

On a key and often misunderstood distinction.
Mar | 29 | 2012

Mar | 29 | 2012

burnsLinkedIn recently tweaked its matching functionality making it easier than ever to connect with previous colleagues, acquaintances, and friends. I stumbled upon a former boss of mine at a large, publicly traded consulting firm. He’s now a bigwig at a large tech company struggling to remain relevant (call it XYZ here).

Now, I have no doubt that XYZ was certainly looking for a type of employee when its hiring manager made him an offer. The type: a safe, experienced, risk-averse manager.

So, what’s wrong with this? On the surface, nothing. But look deeper for a moment.

Don’t mistake a leadership for management.

Without exception, today CXOs talk about innovation, embracing change, speed-to-market, yadda, yadda, yadda. Everyone wants to be the next Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. But also-rans are unlikely to drive true innovation by hiring the usual suspects: safe, experienced management types more concerned about self-preservation than rocking the apple cart.

Management and leadership are not the same thing. By all accounts, Steve Jobs didn’t win any awards for his often abrasive management style. But few can doubt his leadership prowess. Ditto Mark Zuckerberg. (How many people are effective managers in their early 20s, anyway?)

Don’t mistake a leadership for management.


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1 Comment

  1. Crysta Anderson

    Over breakfast today, I was reading about the distinction between leadership and management: “Management is about seeking order and stability; leadership is about seeking adaptive and constructive change.” (Northouse) You need both, but they’re rarely found in the same person. 


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