National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Management vs. Leadership


July 23 - August 5, 2006 Issue | Posted 7/23/06 at 10:00 AM


One of my staff members has re-marked that our organization has plenty of management but not enough leadership. I’m not sure I understand the difference between the two. So: What’s the difference between management and leadership?

Managers keep the ship sailing but do not set the course. If poor management is in place, the ship will point in the right direction but will not have the means to get there. On the other hand, if leadership is lacking, the ship will sail effectively toward nothing. It may even bottom out because the course is poorly charted.

It takes both leadership and management to run a successful organization. Leadership is the activity of providing guidance and direction. Management is the act, manner or practice of managing; handling, supervision, or control. (Thank you, American Heritage Dictionary.)

The nature of the roles can be understood by observing that a leader can afford to take a day off without delegating, but a manager cannot. Leaders spend most of their time thinking about the future and painting a clear vision of where the company is headed. Managers spend more of their time in the present.

The roles often overlap. A leader may manage by diving into the trenches, rolling up his sleeves and handling a few tasks in order to demonstrate his convictions and to set an example. But soon he must delegate so he can get a bird’s eye view of the direction he has set. In a similar way, a manager will lead by inspiring his team and sharing the vision of how his department fits into the big picture.

As an employee advances in an organization, he gains more responsibility but sheds responsibilities. In other words, he goes from being a doer (a manager) to being a guider (a leader). The leader carries strategic, moral and philosophical duties but generally not as many task-type burdens. In fact, it is important for a leader to free him- or herself up from tasks in order to be able to set direction and make big-picture, mission-and-vision decisions.

Based on my experience, I would assume that your staff member was probably expressing that he is unclear about where your organization is headed. He may have the sense of moving fast but in circles. And he may well be speaking for others as well as himself.

I suggest that you try to paint your staff a clearer picture of where your organization is headed, how you intend to get it there — and how customers, employees and society will be the better for your success in reaching those goals. Don’t be afraid to articulate and reiterate, regularly and with the zeal of an evangelist, your organization’s mission and vision. Happy sailing.

Catholic business trainer

and motivational speaker

Dave Durand is online