Management vs Leadership

Okay I tried a dark background, but I have to admit I could barely look at my blog. I guess I am back to white and slightly colorful.

Back in the day I used to think leadership and management are all the same thing. They were both synonyms for a position on top that everyone coveted. We all wanted to reach that to get more pay or more say in what going on in an organization. Initially that where I wanted to go, I even went ahead and took the GMAT and prepared to do business school as soon as I get done with bachelors. However, I ended up following advice from a respected friend who told me to wait until I worked for a few years. A few years of work placed me in J&J where my experience with management led me to flee with horror from ever considering that option and thus I ended up joining Purdue University. One year after joining Purdue a leadership position was thrust on me and suddenly I became the president of the Muslim Student Association. As President of MSA I noticed that while I can inspire people to conduct large scale events I couldn’t conduct them successfully myself (based on my criteria for success). It was out of my areas of expertise and I did not enjoy doing it. There were too many details to worry about that I might end up overlooking. I found out that I preferred conducting smaller more personal events were I can work directly with people. Okay I am going to stop mumbling about all the stuff I found out about and realized and will end with the following conclusions.

Leadership and management skills are two different sets of skills that people have in varying proportions. While it is possible to be a leader and a manager at the same time usually a person has one of the two skills. While I do believe these skills are learned, a person must show propensity to learn them and that I believe is associated with the person character.

Put simply, leaders are people who inspire the ones around them to work with them (note not work for them, big difference) to run programs. They are not necessarily involved in day to day planning of an event, but they do keep abreast of all developments in their organization. Managers on the other hand are excellent at coordinating and conducting events. They think of every detail concerning an event and usually plan for the unexpected. In terms of vision, leaders usually have long vision range of 2-3 years and sometime even farther. Managers usually plan it year by year or event by event. Leaders are passionate about their projects and can spread their passion to their supporters, while managers are critical thinkers and some would consider them risk averse. Lastly leaders are more charismatic and people friendly while managers are more task-oriented.

I want to point out again that these skills are not mutually exclusive. A leader to some degree must have management skills and a manager usually has leadership qualities. However, I noticed that people do lean mostly to one direction or another. In terms of Islamic institutions, we have many good managers but few good leaders in the top positions. While these good managers have great intentions it ends up causing strife in the community mostly due to communication and volunteering issues.

Well that all regarding my perspective of managers and leaders. I know depending on your experience you will have a different perspective and would love to hear yours.


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