Project Management

Management vs. Leadership, and How to Tell Them Apart

Is there really a difference between management and leadership? The two seem interchangeable, even inseparable. But as Patrick Gray for TechRepublic explains, knowing the difference between your project “manager” and your team “leader” can be a defining factor for project success.

Parsing Out Distinctions

Sometimes IT organizations need balance.  At other times they are better off leaning toward a particular trait. Let’s start with management.  Gray pegs “manager” as the less reputable title to be held by professionals in US business culture. That word may be associated with unwanted control and excessive rule making (as in “micromanaging”). The connotations of the word leader, by contrast, are of inspiration, innovation, or downright heroism. Yet having vision and lacking execution is the hallmark of many companies – where great leadership abounds in the absence of good management.  So how can one identify the proper approach for their company?

Gray gives us a sense of where these two areas, management and leadership, become closely intertwined.

… a multi-million dollar failed IT project… often comes down to a failure of management and leadership…too often we rely overly on certification agencies, deeming someone a “manager” of a multi-million dollar project due to a raft of initials after their name…Similarly, we might staff the project with a proven leader who finds the nuances of coordinating dozens of internal and external parties completely unimportant, while the project burns through its funds with little actual result.

The Extremes

If an IT company is focused primarily on utility, it will need excellent management to maintain the kind of complex operations businesses rely on for application development and other specific requests. By contrast, a product-oriented IT outfit that leans heavily on vendor-based output will need better leadership to organize and mesh various teams around a common, and potentially innovative, vision.

Gray recommends a thorough assessment of which approach is needed at your organization, while remembering that either extreme may apply. He also warns against the temptation to assume that the aptitudes of one role automatically exist in the other. For instance, it is common for managers to be chosen for their technical skills, but not their ability to manage.

You can read the entire post at:

Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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