What is leadership and how does it differ from management?

This is a question that I am asked on a regular basis.  While there are many ways that question can be answered, I have my own personal thoughts on how each differs from the other.  I think managers are more maintainers; they tend to rely on systems and controls.  Leaders, on the other hand, tend to be innovators and creators.  They are more likely to rely on people and see more value in progress, change and the results they experience.

Managers are individuals who rely on the processes that have been followed for years.  They are less inclined to disrupt the current state even to create positive change. A leader continuously challenges the status quo, where a manager will simply accept it.  Managers tend to have short-range views when it comes to their position.  They accept where they currently are and will likely never rise above their current position.  While this may be a learned method of thinking, it does have the potential of changing.

Leaders, on the other hand, are driven.  They are never satisfied with their current performance and never compare themselves to others.  Rather, they compare themselves to their potential and their vision.  Leaders tend to have a higher standard for themselves and their organization.  As a whole, leaders tend to be charismatic and encourage those surrounding them to follow them.  They choose individuals they feel represent their ideals and will help them achieve their goals.

Leaders do not rely on others to make things happen; rather, they view it as their mission to disrupt the current environment, set the right example and make things happen.  If they see an area that needs to be changed or improved, they will likely create a plan and put it into action to achieve the desired results.  Leaders are the risk takers and thrill seekers we witness on a daily basis taking a stand or choosing a road that others may have ignored because it was too difficult.

What do you believe differentiates a leader from a manager?


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