Management vs. Leadership: Which is a Higher Calling?

I'm tempted to survey a group of recent college graduates and ask the following question: Would you rather be a manager or a leader?

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I have little doubt most would say leader. The term itself conjures up a better future. Leaders are visionaries and highly respected. Managers are people who know a lot, but just don't have the right stuff to be leaders. The best writers and thinkers in the business world today strive to be leaders and to make other leaders.

At least that is the conventional wisdom. As you can imagine, I disagree.

First, I think the two roles overlap considerably. Take a deep look at the competencies and you will see many similarities. I see all the memes on LinkedIn on how managers are dictators who worry about efficiency and productivity, while leaders are nurturers and communicators. Not true - these memes compare bad managers against great leaders. If you were to show a great manager vs. a great leader, the differences would be much less.

The great manager of today has all the emotional intelligence of a leader. They need to be thinking about the changes coming down the road (and there are always changes) to ensure their teams are prepared. Things move too fast today to wait for the leadership to recognize and give a manager direction. The manager has to know the direction the leader wants to go and be ready to move that way.

I'll have a lot more to say on this in future posts, but I will leave you with this. Peter Drucker - one of the greatest business minds of any generation - taught management principles. He considered one of the skills that a manager needed was leadership. In other words, leadership is a part of management, not something above and beyond it.