Manager or Leader?


The terms leadership and management are often used interchangeably, and although both share similarities, they also have significant differences. Mullins identifies that the changing nature of organisations are shifting focus on coaching and teamwork rather than a controlling and performance based environment (Mullins, 2013). According to Drucker (1999), “management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things”. There have been numerous studies to the approaches of management and leadership that seek to determine the similarities and differences yet many provide conclusions that often too black and white when applied to the real working environment. Organisations need both managers and leaders for an organisation to thrive and an individual would not necessarily be defined as one or another but instead possess elements of both (Kotter, 1990).


A brief summary of the main differences and similarities are as follows:

1) Approach to goals

Works by Kotter and Bennis both imply that managers have a short-term approach to work. Kotter states that where managers “seek order and consistency” focussing on the process and planning of work, leaders on the other hand posses a vision for change, determining a strategy in the direction of a vision. Bennis (1989) argues that leaders are innovators where managers apply what they have learnt previously as a drive to any change.

According to Radclife, leaders approach goals by thinking in the future and engaging in others to help create that future (Mullins, 2013).


2) Attitudes towards work

Zaleznik seeks to differentiate the attitudes and conceptions towards work, arguing that managers take a “impersonal or passive” rather than a leader’s “personal and active” attitude towards goals (Mullins, 2013). Leaders “create excitement” in subordinates to accept change and solutions whereas managers “co-ordinate and balance” compromises.


3) Consistency and Communication

Both managers and leaderships can act as role models to their subordinates. Consistently demonstrating their behaviour is a skill that both sets must possess. Additionally, effective communication is another skill that both must possess, although the styles of communication may differ.


Circumstances and Individuality

The view of CMI 2013 can be supported in that the approach depends on the industry and the goals of each individual team. The circumstances and individuals of each team play a factor in which managing style is best. Taking Burberry as an example, picking teams within a warehouse or a factory would predominantly be measured on productivity and accuracy. In this case, a manager who can fine tune processes and balance the mechanics of the team would be best suited. This level would require less visionary and innovative leadership but a greater focus on order and consistency of standards. Mullins argues that cultural differences may also have an impact in perception of a business (Mullins, 2013). Subordinates working in a factory may have a short foresight in ones career and therefore the perception in work may differ. Managers in a factory would also motivate its subordinates by setting short – term goals. A dominant style of management as suggested by Blake and Moulton, could be a primary style, yet a “back up” style, which can be used if the dominant style is not working, may be adopted (Mullins, 2013).


On the other hand, Burberry’s design teams would thrive on working under a visionary leader, Christopher Bailey, so that the product and trends are pushed to the forefront of the industry. A design team would be motivated by a leader who draws its team into a feeling of ownership of the company and developing an innovative ethos. This is


Burberry’s retail operation teams who are customer facing would perhaps require a combination of both leadership and management styles as not only are individuals are results based to selling product, but also they must be look up to a leader who is a role model in translating the vision of the brand that in turn is passed through to the customer. This in turn has an effect on the brand reputation.



Management by Objectives

Drucker’s coined the phrase “management by objectives”, MBO, that was developed by McGregor. This is attractive to me because this approach focusses on personal objectives and targets that are closely related to the overall company goals. Such approach is dynamic and flexible in that it allows for performance plans and reviews and linked to rewards and career progression. Many modern organisations have adopted staff appraisal systems that relate to goal-setting theory deriving from MBOs. For management by objectives to work though objectives must be clear and argues that “90% of the time, you don’t know the objectives” (Economist, 2009). Thomson states the potential advantages of the MBO approach such as “gaining commitment” and creating a feeling of belongingness to the company (Thomson, 1998). However, conversely the article argues most managers lack the interpersonal skills to run the system “for dialogue and growth” but instead causes a system that is causes constant pressure and over-criticism in over regular reviews.


From this short comedian video about manager and leadership, we can have some pictures about how they work differently.


Bennis, W. (1989) Becoming a Leader, Philadelphia, Harper Paperbacks.

Drucker, P.F.(1999) Management Challenges for the 21st Century. New          York, United States: Harper Business.

Drucker, P. (1999) ‘Managing Oneself’, Harvard Business Review, March-April.

Kotter, J.P. (1990) A Force For Change: How Leadership Differs from

Management. New York, United States: Simon and Schuster Inc.

Mullins, L. J. (2013) Management & Organisational Behaviour. Harlow, England: Pearson.

The Economist (2009) Management by Objectives [online] available at[accessed: 3 Apr 2014]

Thomson, T. M. (1998) Management by Objectives [online] available at[accessed: 3 Apr 2014]


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