“Leaders are the architects and managers are the builders.” – John Mariotti
Many people confuse the differences between leadership and management. Often, both terms are lumped together based on someone’s position or title within an organization. But, here’s what I’ve learned about leadership and management from my experiences in the workplace and in my organizational leadership classes at Penn State World Campus.
Leaders and managers influence others, work with people, and are concerned about accomplishing goals. Management and leadership are not interchangeable, yet they are intricately connected. They each have a unique and important responsibility. However, where they are unique is in the way that they function. A manager’s responsibility is “to provide order and consistency,” and a leader’s responsibility is “to produce change and movement” (Northouse, 2013, p.13). Leaders strive to produce adaptive and constructive change, while managers seek order and stability (Northouse, 2013).
A leader or manager can be defined by his or her position within an organization, holding a variety of different job duties and roles. There are also differences in the actions and behaviors of a leader and manager, and a person can have attributes of both or neither. An individual can guide or lead others like a Marine sergeant by thinking of the big picture, creating a vision, strategizing, building teams, and empowering others. Or, they can manage a process to achieve a goal. Managers set timelines, establish rules and procedures, develop initiatives, and allocate resources.
In my own experience, I have managed a production line with both English- and non-English- speaking workers. My management role was to teach them how to work as a cohesive group to build products in an efficient manner, while being sensitive to labor rates, profit margins, piece count goals, and quality outcomes. I managed the process to meet organizational objectives. Simultaneously, my connection to these employees went beyond the tasks, and I purposely learned about them as individuals. By learning about their personal and professional interests, speaking their language, and understanding their culture, I built a stronger team. I would consider this a leadership practice that resulted in a reduction in overall labor and an increase of revenue for the organization.
Looking back at this experience, and relating it to what I learned while taking organizational leadership classes at Penn State World Campus, I can now differentiate between managing and leading people. By understanding the benefits of real-life experiences and the value of academic study, leaders can adopt behaviors that focus on people, while managers develop skills that focus on the process. Both are valuable, with managers executing the plan and leaders keeping the team focused on vision.
Heather Mitterer is a 2014 Penn State World Campus graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and a Minor in Psychology. She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with her husband.
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.