The difference between leadership and management

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The following excerpt is adapted from A Practical Guide to Leadership Development, HCPro, Inc., 2007:

In most books in the nursing field, there is a considerable amount of focus given to management and very little given to leadership. But we must remember that, unlike management skills, leadership is not necessarily tied to a position. Everyone has the potential to be a leader, and nurses have the responsibility to be leaders in their organizations.

Differences between leadership and management

John Gardner, one of the noted experts in the field of leadership and a prolific author, has outlined nine tasks of leadership that help distinguish it from management. These tasks are:

  1. Envisioning goals: Pointing others in the right direction in helping the group deal with the tension between long- and short-term goals
  2. Affirming values: Regenerating and revitalizing the beliefs, values, purposes, and vision shared by members of the group, and challenging the values held by some
  3. Motivating: Unlocking or channeling motives that exist within members of the group, having and promoting positive attitudes, being creative, and encouraging others to be excited about the future and how they can be a part of it
  4. Managing: Planning, setting priorities, making decisions, facilitating change, and keeping the system functioning, all in an effort to move the group toward its agreed goals and vision
  5. Achieving a workable unity: Establishing trust and striving toward cohesion and mutual tolerance while managing conflict
  6. Explaining: Helping others understand what the vision is, why they are being asked to do certain things, and how they relate to the larger picture
  7. Serving as a symbol: Serving as a risk taker and acting as the group's source of unity, voice of anger, collective identity, and continuity, as well as its source of hope
  8. Representing the group: Speaking and acting for or on behalf of the group and being an advocate for the group
  9. Renewing: Blending continuity and change, and breaking routines, habits, fixed attitudes, perceptions, assumptions, and unwritten rules

Leadership is an art

Leadership is more of an art than a science. Whereas management is often thought of as a science in which a series of logical steps can be followed to implement whatever the role demands, leaders differ from managers in a variety of ways. Leaders are active in formulating goals and objectives for the people who work for them. They look for a better way to do things.

In management, many goals are established by other people and carried out by the man agers within the organization. Leaders will act to develop new and fresh approaches to problems that may exist within the organization. Leaders are never satisfied with the status quo. The leader's instinct is to take risks and to challenge those people and ideas within an organization that may be holding it back. Managers work to accomplish the tasks and usually will continue to do whatever is necessary to get the job done without taking on too much risk or moving forward.

Leaders are concerned with relationship building. They promote the people who work for them, help them develop, and move forward. Managers assign people; focus on personnel issues; and focus on how the events get done, how they occur, and how are they accomplished.

It is important to emphasize that a person can be a leader without being in a position of authority.

And, as healthcare professionals, every one of us must remember that, because we all have the potential to provide leadership at some point in our life.

Source: A Practical Guide to Leadership Development, HCPro, Inc., 2007. For more information on this book, click here.

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