Leadership and management are terms so frequently interchanged that they have almost lost their distinguishing characteristics.  The images each word evokes, however, could not be more different. “Managers” are uninspiring sources of aggravation at low-paying high-school jobs.  “Leaders” are generals who have bronze statues cast in their honor.  While leadership and management are not exactly interchangeable, they are also not mutually exclusive, and the differences between the two skill portfolios should not be confused.
When exploring the distinction between leadership and management, it is equally important to understand that effective leaders and managers are observant enough to recognize which circumstances call for leadership and which circumstances require management. The true art is in the individual’s ability to recognize which situations call for leadership or management, as well as the self-awareness to know whether one is better suited to lead or manage.
Too often, self-styled serious students of leadership pay thousands of dollars and devote thousands of hours to attend training seminars and build a paper trail which validates their self-image as a leader.  A culture of professional leadership validation through everything from military badges to certification programs, originally intended to communicate one’s leadership or management qualifications to the outside world, has become cluttered.
If one characteristic serves to demystify the opacity of the “leadership industry” and distinguishes leadership from management, it is that leadership is similar to management but significantly more dependent upon personal characteristics. While not an ironclad maxim, the assertion can be made that all leaders must manage, but not all managers must lead. Generals and admirals must effectively manage millions of dollars, facilities and human resources before they can begin to apply their own unique leadership styles. Politicians must manage broad portfolios of relationships, risk and trade-offs.
Every organization seems to have its own theories about which leadership styles best suit the organizations’ missions. Given the complexity of interpersonal communications, searching for a unified theory of leadership seems almost a fool’s errand.
Whether it be employing a participative leadership style over a series of months to help an organization develop its strategic plan or using an authoritative leadership style to lead a military unit in pitched combat, a leader’s success toward achieving the organization’s mission relies heavily on a few essential characteristics. A manager must be an excellent communicator and a savvy steward of resources and personnel. A leader either must be that steward also or be self-aware enough to know how to lead those who are.  The paramount difference that distinguishes leaders, though, is recognizing the dynamic, complex nature of their human resources. Leaders’ human resources are most effective when they are given purpose, motivation and direction.
At the end of the day, leaders are essentially managers who communicate clearly and candidly, foster mutual respect, share hardship and strive to improve the organization with their most valuable resources – their human resources.
Russell Galeti Jr. (MSFS ’13) is an Ohio Army National Guard infantry captain, a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and a special assistant in USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.

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