Management and Leadership as Complementary Systems

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 14
Words: 3885
Reading time:
14 min
Study level: PhD


Kotter (1990) argued that management and leadership have distinct characteristics but also complement each other. The difference between leadership and management is sometimes difficult to define. This is due to the fact that healthy organizations have leaders who perform similar duties and roles as those of the managers. On many occasions, the roles of managers and leaders overlap. However, research suggests that despite the overlap in the roles involved in management and leadership, the two activities are not similar (Bass, 2010). In fact, the point at which these two overlap is subject to debate (Yukl, 2010). Scholars have suggested that the leaders and managers bring different but useful contributions to the organization. This research topic was chosen because it is relevant to organizations today and it would provide the way forward for managers and leaders in the organizations.

Managers of organizations are usually expected to lead. However, it is never certain that they would lead effectively. Successful organizations have been determined to have strong management and strong leadership. With the changing business environment, leaders are expected to leave their comfort zones and strive to inspire and persuade the employees. The managers, on the other hand, are expected to ensure that there is a smooth running of the organization.

Leadership in organizations mainly involves the setting of a strategic vision. The employees are then inspired to achieve it. Good leaders find ways to motivate the employees to achieve the organization’s purpose and goal. Such leaders also demand a high level of ethics among the employees and other senior staff in the organization. This is necessary to reduce the cases of fraud within the organization since such activities may cause the company to collapse.

Employees strive to emulate the leaders since they are role models. They also believe in handling first things first and believe that loyalty is the greatest virtue. Leaders may under-promise but always over-deliver. On the other hand, management mainly entails execution. After the leader sets the vision, the manager is responsible for its implementation. Managers would ensure that the existing policies and regulations are followed by the workers in order for the organization to operate as expected. Management of resources is also vital so as to ensure that the organization operates within its annual budget. Good management also involves the motivation of the employees in order to ensure employee satisfaction. This is deemed necessary in order to ensure that employees perform effectively and efficiently with an aim of making the organization profitable and sustainable.

Leadership usually yields long-term impacts while management yields a short-term goal. The decisions made by leaders are meant to safeguard the future of the company. In order for employees to achieve the organization’s goal, the leaders ensure that they are motivated. On the other hand, managers mainly manage the day-to-day activities of the organization (Lunenburg, 2011). There is some element of supervision of the employees and the managers ensure that the tasks are completed with the expected quality and within the set deadlines. Leadership also involves taking the organization to the next level. The leader needs to be creative in order to define the next big thing. Such initiatives motivate the employees and give meaning to work. However, management involves the efficient execution of the plan.

Organizations usually define management and leadership interchangeably. This is due to the fact that their roles overlap. One of the similarities between the two is that they both involve human interactions. In this case, personalities and characters are vital requirements. Therefore, management and leadership occur at all levels of management. The Chief Executive Officer, for example, exercises more leadership than management since he provides the company’s vision and plans on how to achieve it. For the manager, on the other hand, he would rarely go beyond determining the company’s next project.

It is evident that good leadership does not guarantee proper management. Proper management, on the other hand, does not guarantee good leadership. Therefore, leaders require to have good management skills in order to be able to transform their visions into action. This would enable them to ensure the successful implementation of their vision. A good combination of effective management and leadership is required to ensure the success of an organization (Zaleznik, 1997).

Literature Review

The survival of a business in today’s business environment requires a good understanding of the difference between leaders and managers. Organizations have been forced by pressure from the market to determine the necessary characteristics to look out for when selecting the top management personnel. The success of a business greatly depends on the quality of the leadership. Therefore, theories of leadership and the roles of the leaders are a starting point in the development of the persons who would be responsible for providing the direction to be taken by the company. One of the differences experienced by the leaders and managers is in terms of the nature of the business environment. The managers usually experience a relatively static and stable environment. That of the leaders, on the other hand, is usually characterised by vibrancy and chaos. Bhatia (1995) argued that organizations must find the balance of individuals who have an understanding of both leadership and management. This, according to her, was necessary in order to deploy individuals depending on the business environment.

Zaleznik (1977) thought of the difference between management and leadership on the basis of order and chaos. He argued that managers were safe since their environment was controlled and in order. Managers usually manage the day-to-day activities in the organization by the use of control and planning processes. Therefore, they need to employ systematic approaches to issues. However, there may come a time when large environmental changes occur. At such a time, strong leadership rather than management is required. Managers also appear more suitable than leaders in ensuring stability in the organization. Therefore, the balance between the two is very vital for the success of the organization.

According to the Generic Theory, leaders are born leaders (Bass, 2010). This ancient theory argues that leadership traits are passed from one generation to another. Another theory of leadership is the Genetic (Trait) Theory. It also suggests that these individuals naturally have the distinctive traits of a leader. They are self-confident, self-motivated, have good communication skills and are intelligent. Other theories include the Behavioural Approach and Situational Approach. Others argue that a combination of all these theories is required in order for one to be a good leader (Bennis, 2007). This is due to the fact that every theory is applicable to a specific business environment.

According to Bennis, the theory of behavioural approach is most applicable when it comes to leadership. One of the factors that characterises a leader, according to him, is trust. He believes that trust is required if people need to share objectives that need to be developed during the time of ‘chaos’. He also argues that the trust factor is usually the driving force in whatever the leader is involved in. Another factor that the author thought is very critical to a leader is a failure. He suggests that leaders view failure positively rather than negatively. They believe that failure is a learning process since they gain more knowledge on a specific aspect when they fail. They work towards understanding why they failed then they correct and eliminate it in the future. They understand that repeating the same mistake is unwise. Successful leaders are thought to be those leaders who have made mistakes in the past but gained more experience on how to handle matters at hand in order to avoid them in the future. Leaders do not try to always be right or perfect in what they do. They make their own mistakes and confess that they failed. They then work towards rectifying the same mistake and this leads them to grow constantly.

Management is also thought to be an important aspect of any organization. Management is mainly thought to have several stages. The first stage is the planning stage. This is whereby the objectives and goals are laid down. The financial implications are also considered in such a way as to ensure that the project or activity is profitable. Therefore, the opportunity costs must also be considered. The second stage is the organizing stage. This is whereby the resources that are required for the project are made available. Thirdly, the required workforce is made available. The fourth stage of the plan is the implementation stage. During this stage, directions are given according to the strategies employed. Managers usually take an authoritarian approach to issues at this stage. This is mainly seen where the main agenda is to make the necessary resources available rather than also considering the workforce that is skilled enough to implement the plan. Lastly, there is the aspect of control. This is required to ensure that the plan is on the right course. Success during this stage may be achieved through the use of a feedback loop.

For a long time, managers have been thought to be the persons responsible for the planning, organizing, and controlling of the employees. However, modern management styles are required in order to keep the organization stable especially at the mature stage of its life cycle. According to Bennis, another aspect that is required in management is self-management. In order for this to be achieved, one must be self-motivated. Time management is also an important element in management. Managers are required to be able to delegate power and appreciate its importance. This is especially applicable in order to ensure success in the business. The argument behind this is that employees who have been empowered to work without supervision would contribute to the company’s success.

The relationship between managers and leaders has been subject to debate for a long time. This debate mainly revolves around two main aspects (Zaleznik, 1977). Kotter (1990) discussed the first aspect, which is the complementary aspect of both positions. Yukl and Lepsinger (2005) defined the second one, which is the fact that the two are interdependent. The latter is a more recent approach to the issue. These theorists agree on one thing. They believe that the difference between the managers and leaders mainly comes with the uniqueness of their behaviour, skills, styles and activities.

More recent approaches have moved away from the more traditional thinking that leadership and management differ on the basis of skill, activities and position. These approaches argue that the difference mainly depends on the intention, mindset and context. Heifetz (1994) argued that there is a difference between adaptive work and technical work. He believes that management usually involves technical work. This usually involves tackling common issues using known solutions. Leaders, on the other hand, perform adaptive work. This involves facing uncertainties or uncommon issues that require the creation of new solutions (innovation).

The issues that organizations face vary in their nature and context. Therefore, they may either require technical or adaptive work. Depending on the nature and context of the issue, the person specialized on how to handle it (manager or leader) would take over. It is upon the organization’s actors to foster an understanding of issues that require management and leadership.

Both leadership and management are necessary for the success of any business. Leaders are mainly believed to be responsible for guiding and influencing the employees. Managers, on the other hand, are expected to spearhead the process of directing and administering. Both individuals have well defined roles and this shows that they are quite independent. Managers are also believed to be the ones who administer, initiate, maintain, demand immediate results and maintain the status quo. However, leaders differ in that they are innovators who focus on the employees in order to inspire trust. They are also known to focus their eyes on the horizon. Unlike the managers, they challenge their status quo (Bhatia, 1995).

Certain critiques identify managers as persons who strive to do things right. Leaders, on the other hand, are determined to do the right thing. However, both leadership and management are related especially where certain values must be introduced to organizations. These values include motivation of staff, fostering creativity and increasing productivity, strengthening organizational culture and embracing change. Therefore, both leaders and managers must focus on personal development through continuous learning and following their gut.

One of the challenging questions is whether a manager can also be a leader and the other way round. The answer is yes. Managers may also be considered leaders. Leaders also posses certain managerial values. Therefore, one does not have to be both a leader and manager in order to succeed. However, successful organizations ensure that the staff members have a mix of both managers and leaders. Various organizations nurture leadership in most aspects of their activities. For example, team leaders and committee chairs are leaders by nature. The individuals who initiate new services and products are also leaders.

Managers usually cope with complexity. This has driven the force to develop large organizations. Good managers are required to ensure that businesses do not become chaotic since this would threaten their existence. They bring order and emphasize on quality and profitability of goods and services. Leaders, on the other hand, cope with change. This is especially important since the business environment always changes. It is becoming more volatile and competitive. There are several factors that have contributed to this shift. One of them includes the changing demographics of the employees. Others include changes in the price of oil, technological changes and stiff competition in the international arena.

The different qualities of managers and leaders render them as equally important in the organizational setting. Organizations should strive to have different amounts of both in order to meet today’s challenges. Many organizations usually lack one of the two individuals. Most usually have more managers than leaders. Such organizations lack individuals who help employees deal with the constant changes.

Management provides authority to the involved individuals (Zaleznik, 1997). Therefore, they have subordinates who work below them. These subordinates rely on their managers for direction, following exactly what they have been told. They do this since they are driven by a promise of a reward. Managers are also subordinates to other top management staff. Therefore, they are there to get things done. In most cases, they have strict deadlines to meet under a tight budget. For this reason, they pass this focus towards their employees. Certain research suggests that managers are usually individuals who stem from stable backgrounds. They usually live comfortable lives avoiding risks and conflict as much as possible.

In this regard, leaders differ in various respects. Firstly, unlike managers, they do not have subordinates. Those who have subordinates also practice management. However, these individuals are required to give up authoritarian control. Rather than having subordinates, they have followers. Unlike the subordinates who act from compulsion, the followers do this voluntarily. Authorising employees to do things does not inspire them to work willingly. This explains why leaders do not do this. Instead, they appeal to the employees to follow them voluntarily. Such employees (followers) would be willing to get out of their comfort zones and walk the risky path with their leader. For this reason, leaders need to have strong charisma in order to easily attract these employees. The motivation of these followers is not usually in terms of extrinsic rewards. They are usually made to understand that they would have transformational benefits. In other words, they would be transformed into better people.

Leaders mainly have a people focus (Heifetz, 1994). Despite being charismatic, they are not loud. They know how to make good relations with the followers. This character also enables them to be good with people and gain their trust. They usually learn to take blame on themselves whenever they fail. This explains why they are able to create employee loyalty, which is an achievement for any leader. However, leaders are usually careful not to be very close and friendly. Therefore, they maintain a degree of separation in order to maintain a level of authority. Unlike managers, leaders are risk-seekers. They are familiar with problems and hurdles along the way. They may go out of their way while breaking rules in order to experiment new things and explore potential opportunities.


For this study, both primary and secondary sources were consulted. For secondary data, a number of resources were searched both electronically and manually. This was done in order to find secondary analyses of qualitative data. Several electronic databases were consulted and these included Business Source Complete (EBSCO), Proquest Central, ABI/INFORM and JSTOR. This method was selected due to the time and resource constraints. This was also deemed important due to the breadth of data available in secondary sources.

The keywords used for the electronic databases included ‘management versus leadership’, ‘difference between leadership and management’, ‘similarities between managers and leaders’ and ‘how management and leadership complement each other’. This was used to search for abstracts and titles of related researches. The abstracts obtained from these searches were read to determine whether they were relevant to the study. The sources selected had to have been published in English and in the area of business management. The sources were then checked and appraised. In some cases, the authors were reviewed to ascertain their qualifications for the study. The details of all the sources were entered into a spreadsheet then summarized.

For primary research, individuals were interviewed. Due to time constraints, a small sample was selected for the study. A suitable research area was selected and five organizations selected randomly from the area. The employees, managers and leaders were interviewed in order to find their views concerning the relationship between leadership and management and to determine whether the two complemented each other. Three employees, two managers and two leaders were interviewed in each organization. In order to avoid biases, the participants were selected through random sampling. This was done by randomly selecting the names of the employees, managers and leaders from a list provided by the human resource department. Each interview took about twenty minutes. The data collected was recorded.

Data Analysis

For secondary analysis, the main points were summarized in a table.

Characteristic Leader Managers
How they view training As an investment As an expense
How they articulate values of employees They articulate these values They assume
Business style They are change agents Maintains a status quo
Flexibility They welcome new ideas They avoid changes
Risk taking They are risk-takers They avoid risks
Networking with external bodies They have a large network They have a small network
Where they focus attention The vendors and customers Focus on internal functions
Information sharing They are generous with information They guard information jealously
Responsibilities They delegate responsibility They practice centralized leadership

Table 1: The difference between managers and leaders (characteristics).

The details from the interviews were also summarized to include the views of the leaders, managers and employees.

Leadership Management
Leaders challenge current constraints Managers accept the current constraints
Involves persuading followers and motivating them in order to foster a conducive environment to follow instructions They are authoritarian and forceful while instructing employees
Leaders inspire trust with followers Involves reliance on control
It involves identification of problems associated with the current organizational structure in order to suggest alternatives Managers strive to work within the default organizational structure
Their concern is with the reasons Their concern is with the resources available
They focus on the reasons for working on a particular project and the benefits that would stem from it Strive to work within the set deadlines, under the provided budget and with available resources
Leaders try to find valuable information from the reports Managers focus on project administration and value reporting and planning

Table 2: Leadership versus management.


From the study, it is evident that management and leadership are two distinct constructs. Managers and leaders have different characteristics but each functions well in their respective positions. Managers have been defined as being authoritarian and forceful in the way they instruct employees to get things done. On the other hand, leaders are friendlier since they try to persuade followers through motivation so as to get them to do what is required. This observation is similar to those made by other researchers. When employees are motivated to work independently and willingly, they are likely to work more effectively. Therefore, from the above observation, the leaders may appear to be better in handling employees than managers. However, certain situations require this kind of authoritarian control in order to make things done.

Managers are also considered as people who work with deadlines, under a strict budget and using the available resource. This is important in the business environment where making profits and ensuring customer satisfaction are priorities. Managers are good at delivering results within the set deadlines. Leaders, on the other hand, look at the value that the project would bring and the benefits from it. Leaders are also risk-takers. Through this, they experiment new ideas and take organizations to the next level. Managers avoid taking risks and only work within familiar territory. Leaders understand the value delegating responsibilities. Through delegation, employees have the opportunity to gain experience, grow and climb up the ranks within the organization. From the study, it is clear that both managers and leaders play an important role within the organization. Each of the two characters brings different values to the organization. However, neither can do without the other since an organization requires all these characteristics in order to succeed in the current ever-changing environment.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Scholars such as Kotter have argued that leadership and management are two distinct systems and should not be used interchangeably. They have argued that people do not see the crucial difference between leaders and managers. Both play an important role in the business market. Kotter (1990) argued that people think that leaders are individuals who occupy the top management positions and assume that individuals at the lower hierarchies are managers.

Management usually involves the setting of common processes such as planning. People who practice management also budget, structure jobs, measure performance and assist in solving disputes. It is also up to the manager to ensure that the goods and services produced meet the expectations of the clients. Managers are specialized in coping with complexities. Leadership, on the other hand involves embracing change and adapting to it. They understand that the business environment is dynamic. Therefore, they create vision and strategy, and encourage individuals to go in the same direction through motivating action.

This study has supported some of the previous studies that argue that management and leadership are distinct but also complement each other. Managers bring value to the organization and so do the leaders. The two individuals have different roles to play in the organization and neither of the two can do without the other. Organizations need management since planning and budgeting are required in order for firms to run effectively. Management is also required in order to ensure that organizing and staffing is done. Managers are important since they are responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the organization (controlling). They are also required for problem solving. Leadership is also vital since employees require someone who would motivate them to achieve their vision. Therefore, both management and leadership are essential for organizations.


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