Monday, 19 March 2012

Management is Different to Leadership - John P. Kotter

'Management is different from leadership' John P. Kotter states. Leadership he says is concerned with "the development of vision and strategies, the alignment of relevant people behind those strategies and the empowerment of individuals to make the vision happen, despite obstacles. This stands in contrast with Management, which involves keeping the current system operating through planning, budgeting, organising, staffing, controlling, and problem solving. Leadership works through people and culture. It's soft and hot. Management works through hierarchy and systems. It's harder and cooler".

So there is a conflict for those who are expected to take dual roles!

'The fundamental purpose of management is to keep the current system functioning. The fundamental purpose of leadership is to produce useful change, especially non-incremental change'.

Strong leadership with no management however risks chaos... strong management with no leadership tends to entrench an organisation in deadly bureaucracy'.

The percentage of time managers need to spend leading is growing rapidly and Kotter goes on to say... "increasingly, those in managerial jobs can be usefully thought of as people who create agendas with both plans and budgets (the management part) and visions and strategies (the leadership part), as people who develop implementation networks both through hierarchy (management) and a complex web of aligned relationships (leadership) and who execute both through controls (management) and inspiration (leadership)".

A critical issue that Kotter observes is the issue of POWER (and dependence). He says that "because managerial work is increasingly a leadership task and because leaders operate through a complex web of dependent relationships, managerial work is increasingly becoming a game of informal dependence on others instead of just formal power over others".

A great danger for those that are ineffective leaders Kotter can come from all levels of the organisation:

'The wily employee near the bottom of the hierarchy... can make life difficult (or easier) for the "important" manager through any number of strategies'. "An increasing part of managerial work involves actively dealing with dependence on others who are above or below in the hierarchy, peers inside the organisation and even people outside". I don't think this is any revelation to those of us who have worked as managers for some time, however as he points out it is not often directly discussed.

One of the most difficult issues for managers I have trained in a number of industries (and countries) is how to deal with this dependence on others. This issue will be covered in the sections of LEADERSHIP and POWER. Some of the strategies that I have seen staff use are as obvious as 'hiding the files' (burning in one case) or 'badmouthing bosses' to customers, or as subtle as holding back an important communication for a critical few minutes or 'poisoning' the mind of another colleague regarding your motives and on whom you depend. Kotter goes on to say, 'a focus on the dependencies is superior to a traditional emphasis on only formal powers'.

Finally as I was advised at the first management school I attended and as I advise all participants at courses I conduct today, networking is critical (success versus effective) and the development of good working relationships with people in the network (bosses, peers, staff, other departments, customers, and any other stakeholders) is a major part of every managers role. As Kotter puts it, "Having focus beyond direct subordinates is obviously necessary". A fundamental point, "actively managing relations with the boss is a necessity for the good of the enterprise" and I suggest for your survival.

More management articles at orglearn


  1. I see myself as more of a Visionary, a Leader. I love to inspire others and encourage vision. Inspire creativity, thought, and action. Although, I'm sure even Leaders need some basic form of Management skill.

  2. I believe the best strategy to management is to create a pain free system where everyone feels like they own the company rather than just do time to get a paycheck. To this end I believe MLM is one of the best things going today as long as you can find the right MLM for you to join.