Some might question whether there’s much, if any, difference between management and leadership, since both require the ability to work effectively with people to make something happen.
According to Webster’s dictionary management is “the act or skill of controlling and making decisions about a business, department, sports team, etc.; the people who make decisions about a business, department, or sports team, etc.; and the act or process of deciding how to use something”. Leadership, however, is defined as “a position as a leader of a group, organization etc.; the time when a person holds the position of leader; and the power or ability to lead other people”.
Perhaps not much of an opening to gain more insight there…
Most people would probably agree that key to being a good manager is the ability to motivate staff, earn their respect while getting the best out of them, ensuring they are doing their jobs to the best of their ability. Effective managers have usually learnt through experience and have adopted a specific structure to get what they need to get the job done. They set goals and ask the “how” and “when” in order to accomplish that goal. You could say that managers are the engine of a business; they keep the business moving whilst increasing profitability.
Leadership however, is a much more complex phenomenon, and its characteristics aren’t always immediately apparent.
Take for example, the 1957 movie “12 Angry Men”. A 12-man jury gathers in a New York City courthouse to begin deliberations in the first-degree murder trial of an 18-year-old man accused of stabbing his father to death. The stakes are high. A guilty verdict would mean an automatic death sentence. It appears to be an open-and-shut case: The defendant has a weak alibi; a knife he claimed to have lost is found at the murder scene; and several witnesses either heard screaming, saw the killing, or witnessed the boy fleeing the scene. Eleven of the jurors immediately vote “guilty”; only one juror – Mr. Davis, a humble architect, played by Henry Fonda, casts a “not guilty” vote. At first Mr. Davis’ decision to cast a not guilty vote is more about provoking discussion; after all, the jurors must believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. As the deliberations unfold, the story quickly becomes a study of the jurors’ complex personalities – ranging from wise, bright and empathetic to arrogant, prejudiced and merciless – and their preconceptions, backgrounds and interactions. Through thought-provoking questions, moments of silent contemplation, and suspense-filled debate, Mr. Davis changes the jurors’ decision to a unanimous “not guilty” vote. This one man single-handedly changed the course of another man’s life through his ability to have others examine and question their strongly-held beliefs and preconceived views – to discover something about themselves they hadn’t seen before, questioning the “truth”.
Leadership can be unquestionably seen in the charismatic and statesman-like qualities of individuals, yet it can also be found in the more subtle art of encouraging others to follow, by intrinsically changing their view. Giving people the power to think for themselves, then leaving them following with the experience that it will be the best decision they ever made, is one aspect of leadership less explored.