Log into any business networking site, like LinkedIn or Ryze, and almost daily will you see someone asking a question attempting to determine the difference between Leadership and Management. What are really interesting are the people who are asking: people in management or leadership positions. Now one can only postulate why these "leaders" and "managers" are attempting to have others extol the virtues of their positions: because they either don't know the difference themselves or they are looking for more ammunition in order to fill themselves full of self-importance.

The difficulty is not so much in who is asking or why they are asking, the difficulty is in the responses. Seemingly rational, successful (one would believe) veterans of commerce are filling their responses to these inane questions as a shopping list of traits, responsibilities and descriptors as though Leadership is some sort of goal you magically attain once you have checked off enough traits. It's as though Leadership is the result of scoring high against a benchmark set of tangible criteria.

Leadership and management are no more related than parenting is to being a manager. Anyone can be a parent. All that is required is a moment of passion and in nine months, voila, you're a parent. You can be a drunken, drug-abusing, derelict and still be a parent. There is no specific set of criteria to it at all other than the exchange of bodily fluids at one point.

In the same regard, anyone can become a manager. All that is required is to show up to work for nine months until the current manager leaves and voila, opportunity to be manager. Simple really. But the truth is, a manager can also be a drunken, drug-abusing near-derelict and still remain in his position provided the terms of employment are being met (barely).

Neither example above describes a "good" parent or a "good" manager. Parent, like manager, is a title achieved when a specific set of criteria are met. But not so with leadership. Leadership and management are opposites.

Leadership is an attitude. Management is a position. Parenting is an attitude. Parent is a position. Therefore, parenting is more closely related to leadership than management is. Do you see the distinction? Leadership is not a title on a business card. Leadership is an attitude which might be used in management or being a parent but it is not a prerequisite.

You are expected to perform for your manager but you are not expected to like him, respect him or follow him outside of your assigned duties. On the other hand, a leader will have people who want to follow voluntarily. Leaders lead because others follow voluntarily. Those who possess the leadership attitude will attract followers. Managers who don't have followers, other than by expectation, are not leaders. However, someone with leadership attitude could choose to become a manager.

To manage is to handle whatever it is you are handed. Managers manage crisis, difficulty and setbacks. They also manage goals, targets and assignments. Leaders don't manage crisis, difficulty and setbacks. They forge ahead in spite of them. Leaders don't manage goals, targets and assignments. They set the goals, targets and assignments.

Just because someone has been given a supervisory title does NOT mean they are in a leadership position. In fact, the person who undermines the manager at work and manages to convince others of his incompetence is obviously more adept at leading others than the manager himself.

Leadership is not reserved for those with a corner office and a shiny new business card. Leadership is an Attitude - an attitude not required to be in management. In fact, a manager who thinks himself a leader would be neither well.

Let's use the sports analogy to better define the distinction between leadership and management. Leadership is offense. Management is defense. Playing defense is trying to manage your opponent's scoring attempts. Leadership is scoring despite what your opponent does to try to stop you. Do you see the distinction now?

Perhaps a few questions will help you. Do you try to manage the events of your life or do you forge ahead in spite of whatever happens? Do you manage your kids and attempt to manage their chaos or do you lead them, inspire them, and teach them to be great human beings? Have you, up to now, simply accepted your career results or have you taken the lead in actively climbing to where you are today? The answers to those questions are the difference between leaders and managers.

If you whine about the weather and/or whine about the economy, you're attempting to manage what is out of your control. Leaders enjoy their days regardless of the weather. Leaders succeed in a struggling economy. Leaders don't dwell on the things that can not be controlled but instead forge ahead despite them.

Stop thinking and believing that leadership and management are one in the same. Stop espousing that you must achieve a specific set of criteria to be considered a leader. Stop muddying the waters of an obviously clear distinction. You're showing that you really have no idea of the difference and you're starting to annoy the leaders who do.

Author's Bio: 

Kevin Burns - Author & Attitude Adjuster is a worldwide authority on Attitude. He is the author of eight books including his forthcoming, "Your Attitude Sucks - Fixing What's Wrong With Corporate America." He is an outstanding keynote speaker, worldwide columnist and international Blogger of influence. He is opinionated, blunt, direct, funny, thought-provoking and usually - right!
More info on Kevin's programs at www.kevburns.com

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