Posts Tagged ‘kouzes and posner’

Understanding the Leadership and Management Puzzle

Understanding The Leadership and Management Puzzle

          Navigating the often confusing waters between management and leadership can offer even the most seasoned experts pause for thought.  Many organizations further this confusion by using these terms interchangeably. Our purposes for this module will be to clarify the subtle yet important distinctions for these two terms/concepts, particularly as they impact the business landscape.

          In simplest terms, management and leadership differ significantly with regard to time.  Managers focus on today—with their efforts put toward the day-to-day operations of the needs of business.  Managers manage what is–the status quo.  As this word suggest, the goal of managers is to maintain the organization’s current operations.  Managers keep things running and on track.

          By contrast, leaders focus on tomorrow.  They lead others with critically thinking about the possibilities of what could be.  Kouzes and Posner (1987) offer their Jigsaw Puzzle Principle with regard to the concept of leadership as vision—where it is easier to put the puzzle together if you can see what is on the box cover.  In any organization, people have different pieces of the organizational puzzle.  Members may have detailed descriptions of their roles and responsibilities, but very often they lack information about the ‘big picture’—about the overall purpose or vision of the organization. (pp. 98-99)

          This is one of the functions of leadership—to help organizations understand their vision of tomorrow, and how to get there; where managers implement and maintain the needs of today.

          McCrimmon (2010)  offers a wonderful delineation between these two terms, not to mention a global history lesson of the recent shifts in both the leadership and management paradigms beginning from the Drucker days of management in the 1980s with this influence in Japan and the impacts of Theory X and Theory Y.  While management and leadership are both vital concepts, these are simply two symbiotic terms that need to coexist despite their different yet often complementary roles, functions, and interdependencies.  Sometimes managers may lead, sometimes leaders may manage—however we simply need to distinguish clearly and completely the true role and function of each.

          First, what does it mean to lead?  According to former President Eisenhower (n.d.) “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it” (para. 1).  The goal of leadership is first and foremost to lead by example or advocacy, to create the desire or desire to want to follow.  Sometimes one may lead by grand gestures, sometimes leadership comes softly.  Either way, one can never control another’s behavior; one can but offer or invite one to consider perhaps another path to choose.  

          Leadership is also considered a matter of influence.  With the ever expansive needs of globalization and the heightened advancements of technology, leadership must look to the impacts of both on tomorrow with the business of living. 

          Leadership is defined most effectively by Rost (1993) as “an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes and outcomes that reflect their shared purposes” (p. 102).  McCrimmon (2010) offers that “Leadership promotes new directions; [while] management executes existing directions” (para. 10).   Leaders understand their role with regard to followers.  Managers by contrast have subordinates.  Herein again lies the subtle distinctions with regard to time.  Managers live within the realm of the here and now, today, and leaders explore the possibilities of tomorrow.

            The true challenge to understanding this leadership and management puzzle is to realize that there are a vast myriad of definitions for each of these two concepts—distinct in their own right, yet often interrelated, codependent, and symbiotic in nature.  Regardless of the myriad of definitions chosen and the roles that each may need to play, the true art to putting this puzzle together to understand the distinctions between leadership and management is to take the time to critically think as to the purpose and outcome as each influences the other to more effectively combine their talents in pursuit of the most effective outcomes, both personally and professionally, within the business world.


Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (1987). The leadership challenge How to get extraordinary things done in organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

McCrimmon, M. (2010). Reinventing leadership and management. Ivey Business Journal Online. doi:2119586591

Rost, J. C. (1993). Readership for the twenty-first century. Westport, CT: Praeger.

With respect,


Dr. Cheryl Lentz

Chief Refractive Thinker®
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February 27th, 2011 by admin