Essay by aswitha February 2006

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Early in my career, I thought that leadership was what the people at the very top of the organization did and that management was what all of the people in the middle of the organizational structure did. However, while this positional view is correct in many organizations, it does not need to be that way. Management and leadership are both necessary components of a successful organization of any size. Here's why.

The differences between leadership and management

The role of a leader in any organization is to set the direction. A leader is the first to envision a future position for the organization and first to evangelize that position. Leadership is about finding a point on the horizon and saying, loudly and firmly, we should go there.

Management focuses on keeping the ship upright and moving in the direction that it's headed. It's not about picking a point on the horizon and going there.

Management is about plotting progress towards the spot on the horizon.

Great organizations realize that being good at only one of these two roles is a great feat in itself, but a person who excels at both leadership and management is very difficult, if not impossible, to find. That's why most organizations have a separate chief executive officer and a chief operations officer. The chief executive officer is the leader of the organization, responsible for charting a course. The chief operations officer is the manager responsible for making sure that the ship follows the charted course. They work together to make the organization as effective as possible.

The formula for success

An organization needs to synthesize a model of the leadership/management combination if it wants to be truly successful. If you're in the position to hire someone, you'll want to look for complementary skills. If you're...