The Difference Between Management and Leadership

The Difference Between Management and Leadership
By Glenn Shepard

A 27 year old manager named Justin who attended my seminar at the University of Wisconsin asked why his employees didn’t accept his authority, even though he had been given the official title of General Manager . He was taking over a trucking company from his father and thought it was because of his age, or the fact that his father founded the company. It was neither. Bill Ford’s great grandfather, Henry Ford, founded Ford Motor Company. Yet Bill’s employee’s accept his authority regardless of his family ties. Bill Gates was a teenager when he co-founded Microsoft, yet his employees accepted his authority regardless of his age.

Justin’s employees didn’t accept his authority because while he was a manager, he had not yet become a leader. The title of management can be given to anyone regardless of qualification, and employees have no choice but to comply with a manager’s orders if they wish to continue receiving a paycheck. People will comply with a manager, but will only commit to a leader. The title of leader, however, cannot be given. It only comes once employees respect the manager, and respect cannot be given or ordered. It must be earned.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colon Powell characterized it best when he said, “Leadership is the art of getting people to accomplish more than the science of management says is possible�. When managers face the unpleasant task of firing an employee who they personally like but whose performance just doesn’t cut it, we often try to ease the discomfort by telling the employee “This isn’t personal. It’s just business�. Leadership, however, is very personal. As John Maxwell put it in his best selling book, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership�, people must buy into the leader before they’ll buy into the leader’s mission. Steve Jobs is a perfect example of this. After co-founding Apple Computer when he was only a teenager, he was fired as CEO at age 30. When he was brought back in as CEO in 1997, he began to lead the company in new directions. He was not, however, immediately recognized as the visionary leader that he is today.

In fact, some thought he had lost it altogether because of some seemingly bizarre decisions he made. He settled a lawsuit with Microsoft because he realized that Apple, which was losing market share rapidly, could not fight the 800 pound gorilla that Microsoft had become. He realized that if you can’t beat them, you join them. He then went on to reinvent every product Apple offered, and reinvigorated their employees with a leader’s most powerful tool – momentum. He got his employees so accustomed to change that they expect it now. Reinventing over and over again, such as with the Apple iPod, iPod Mini, Nano, Shuffle, and iPod Video, has become a way of life for his company. Steve Jobs could walk into Apple tomorrow and announce that they are going to stop making MP3 players and computers, and start making toaster ovens. No one would think he’d lost it this time. Instead, his employees would collectively say, “Lead the way, boss. Show us how to make the best toaster ovens anyone has ever madeâ€?.

Glenn Shepard is a management consultant living in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of “How to Manage Problem Employees� and publishes a weekly newsletter to help managers get the most from their teams. Get his free mini course “How to Move from Manager to Leader�� now at

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