Leadership vs. Management – Distinct, But Not Mutually Exclusive

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker

This third part in our leadership series will explore leadership and management. Leadership focuses on the people and the vision to get them to a desired, collective goal and mission. Management addresses the systems and processes for making the vision a reality. It is important that both work together, and I delve more into the topic of People vs. Process in a separate article in this series.

As we focus on Leadership vs. Management, it becomes clear that leadership and management roles, though different, are intimately intertwined. One role is distinctly more vision driven, and the other is predominately more process driven. The successful leader must learn to understand and navigate both crucial processes.

The leader must be able to cast the vision for the mission and direction of the team in line with the organizational goals. It is important that this vision also resonate with individual values, and their “why” of being on the team. The manager must have the capacity to see and understand the vision clearly enough, in order to help build the systems, processes, and logistics of setting things up in the right manner to get the job done.

A “Simple” Way To View Both Roles

I like to explain it in this way – the leaders cast the vision for the “why”, and the managers work on the execution of the “how” and the “what.”. All 3 – the why, what, and how – are crucial for the success of any venture. A vision without a plan to execute will fail. And a plan without an overarching vision of the why will also ultimately die off as well.

The leader in you sets the long-term vision, the management part of you sets the process, systems, and protocols to accomplish it. Both leaders and managers must recognize the systems and processes in place, or the lack of those systems, because their presence or absence will affect the vision of leadership and the execution of management.

Even if you are not officially designated with the title of manager, CEO, or any other leadership or management title, you are the leader and manager of your own life and work. So, think of your own “why, what, and how.” How can you incorporate the vision (leadership) and its implementation (management) in your work and life?

The Ability Of Leaders To Influence Others

According to best-selling author and leadership strategy expert John C. Maxwell, leadership is positively influencing those around you, so much so, they want to follow you. Whether you are the leader of a medical team, a corporate marketing team, individual business, or family, you want to strive to positively influence those under your leadership. Maxwell states in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, “If you can’t influence people, then they will not follow you. And if people won’t follow, you are not a leader. That’s the Law of Influence.”

Managers Measure, Assign, Plan, And Implement

Once you’ve thought about your mission, it’s time to take off the leadership hat and put on the management hat. This is where all the doing gets done! “Doing things right” is the mantra and role of management. It is the what and how to the why. Management is the series of step-by-step actions that lead to the execution of the vision.

Leadership establishes the “why.” Management determines the “how.” So, you have a vision; your “why.” Now, how are you going to execute that vision? How are you going to set the markers, goals, speed, and direction of what you want to accomplish?

The Brains And Minds Of Leaders And Managers Function Differently

In Abraham Zalenznik’s foundational article for the Harvard Business Review, he wrote that one could find the core distinction in the way managers’ and leaders’ subconscious minds processed chaos and order. “Managers embrace process, seek stability and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly . . . Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure in order to understand the issues more fully.”
https://leaders.com/articles/leadership/leadership-management/ The article it was also noted that, “According to a study from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, scientists found leaders’ brains synchronize with their followers’ brains,” and Zalenznik noted that leaders’ brains function more in line with creatives, while managers think in more rigid, formalized terms. While he believed that intrinsic differences exist between managers and leaders, he also upheld both as vital for an organization’s success.

Learn The Secret I Use To Harness And Get The Best Of Both Worlds

I operate on a lot of skulls and expose the lining of the human brain on a regular basis. This is a routine and fascinating part of the work I do as a surgeon, so I think a lot about how our brains process and function.

Leadership and management thinking is one of the areas when I hack the brain process. It may at first seem like leadership and management are mutually exclusive, especially with the science showing how the brains and minds function differently. However, there is powerful synergy in both operating dually in each individual – once you know how to utilize that power!

Here’s how I harness it in order to operate and execute effectively in both arenas. The right side of our brains are creative, innovative, and visionary. When I have a big goal, vision, or project, I let this part of my brain take over to develop those big and usually long-term visionary and leadership targets, dreams, and goals. I don’t let the left brain interfere yet at this point. Believe me – it wants to – because it is the logical part of the brain! It is supposed to keep you “logical” and tell you that you are dreaming too big or lofty. It is trying to keep you from disappointment or danger by appealing to the rational part of you. So, it’s doing what the left brain is supposed to do! But, at that initial stage, I just gently remind the left brain that the right brain is the one working now. Then, once I have the big vision, goal, or impact-work dreamed up, I switch over from the creative right brain visionary thinking, to the left-brain practical aspect of the implementation. The left brain is the logical, thinking, sequencing, and fact-focused part of the brain. So, when I have done the visionary right brain leadership thinking, then I “assign” that task to my factual, executing left brain to hash out the details of the what and how, the execution will happen.

This is how you can be both! A simple hack that works and will bring you tremendous value as you work in leadership and management roles, both in your personal and professional life.

Want more? Check out my free 7-Step Success Formula booklet at

If you missed Parts 1 and 2 of this series you can read them here.
Part 1: Women Have A Limited Pool Of Mentors And Even More Dearth Of Sponsors
Part 2: Emotional Intelligence – What Is it? Do You have it? How to develop it?