The Profound Difference Between Management and Leadership
The late great Warren Bennis, who pioneered the field of leadership studies in the 20th
century, was a firm believer that leaders are not born, they are made.
“Managers are people who do things right, and leaders are people who do the right thing,” he famously said.
Before his death in 2014 at age 89
, Bennis was a distinguished professor of business administration at the University of Southern California. He grew up in New Jersey during the Great Depression, which made a lasting impression on him when his father was abruptly fired as a shipping clerk “with no appeal and no justification.” Bennis vowed to take control of his own life and destiny. During World War II, he served as an Army infantry officer in Germany, where he earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
After the war, Bennis went on to teach some of the earliest organizational studies courses at Harvard, Boston University and the M.I.T. Sloane School of Management. Bennis’ own humble style of leadership led to the formation of leadership studies as an important new academic discipline for American business schools. He held numerous academic posts and honors throughout his career, even serving as chairman of the Advisory Board of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.
“The leader who communicates passion gives hope and inspiration to other people,” he wrote. “The leader wonders about everything, wants to learn as much as he can, is willing to take risks, experiment, try new things. He does not worry about failure but embraces errors, knowing he will learn from them.”
During his career, Bennis wrote 30 books on leadership and advised numerous CEOs and Presidents, including John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. He often critiqued the nation’s lack of passionate business leaders, attributing the leadership vacuum to corporate corruption, extravagant CEO pay packages, and an undue emphasis on quarterly earnings over long-term vision.
“There is a profound difference between management and leadership, and both are important,” Bennis wrote. “To manage means to bring about, to accomplish, to have charge of, or responsibility for, to conduct. Leading is influencing, guiding in a direction, course, action, opinion. The distinction is crucial.”
Bennis went on to crystallize the sharp distinction between management and leadership with this comprehensive list from his classic 1989 book, “On Becoming a Leader
- The manager administers; the leader innovates.
- The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
- The manager maintains; the leader develops.
- The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
- The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
- The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
- The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
- The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
- The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
- The manager imitates; the leader originates.
- The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.