Management Versus Leadership – If One Wins, Everybody Loses!

Management (even flawless management) without leadership is doomed to fail and so called "leadership" without management and precise execution is a hobby, not a business.

I meet often with business leaders and executives and the conversation is generally about organizational or individual performance. Specifically, how can I help them improve the management and leadership of their marketing and sales teams which may be underperforming?

These conversations have caused me to think about the topic of leadership versus management and the nature of both.  For whatever reason, we often think of these things in different buckets.  "I have a great sales manager but what I need is a great leader" or "My leader is strong but doesn't have a good handle on the details of the day to day business".

Great leadership and effective management are not separate and distinct, and you don't have to choose one at the exclusion of the other. My view is that they are integrated and necessary components of a cohesive and high functioning team.

Let me explain through a simple analogy

A few years ago, one of our daughters wanted to learn to play the cello. She joined the orchestra in her school and took private instruction. After the initial, painful beginning, she began to get the hang of it, and we were impressed at her progress.  We were excited about her first orchestra performance. We had only seen her play individually until that point and while we were impressed at the skills she had developed, did not see them in the context of her peers. More importantly, we had not yet seen them in concert with her peers. While individually, many of the students performed their individual roles well enough, they had significant room for improvement as a team!  They were well managed but not yet well led.

This changed over time and it became a true pleasure to watch her perform as part of a large, synchronized group.  I learned to appreciate the vital role of her teacher/conductor in this development who was both a manager and a leader.

The teacher managed the development of each student and focused on individual, functional goals and improvement with direct feedback, clear instruction, and expectation setting. She went deep and was in the details of the mechanics of playing each instrument with each student.  As a leader, she had to elevate and take a different perspective of the situation, focusing on how she would be able to achieve the best collective outcome from the group. Because she had a handle on the details, she could make strategic decisions with effectiveness and clarity and make the best decisions on the tradeoffs which would allow for the most productive outcome for the orchestra.  She also set clear objectives for the group and held them accountable.

Being a manager is focusing on the "what" and "how", being a leader is focusing on the "why" and "when".   For any team to reach their maximum potential, it is critical to have both effective management and leadership of the team.  Without a clear sense of purpose, shared vision & values and a good understanding of the competitive landscape and clear definition of success, teams will be low functioning and toxic.  Without the ability to effectively manage the "how" and "what" that support the strategic initiatives, the team may have great intentions, enjoy working together and still ultimately fail.  You CANNOT be a great leader if you are not a great manager.

Leadership Lessons

Below are five areas I work with leadership teams on as a gauge to see how their teams are functioning as well as the effectiveness of their executive leadership:

  • Does your entire organization know and understand the "elevator pitch"? Are they comfortable sharing it?  Every employee should be an evangelist, every day, in every setting.  There is a lot that goes into this, including company culture, etc.  For employees to be effective evangelists, they should be delighted to be part of the team and know how they can win, individually and as a team.
  • What are the personas for each of the audiences you are targeting and selling to? Why do they care what you have to say/share?  How do you stand out from your competition?
  • Are you sharing the right messages with the right prospects and customers and in the most cost-effective way? How do you know?  Know the details of your business and make decisions based on reliable data.
  • How is the team performing against their goals? How do they know?  How visible are the goals and results to the organization?  Are they properly trained and empowered?  Set clear expectations and agreements and make them transparent, especially those of the leadership team.
  • What are the consequences of meeting or missing goals? How consistently are they applied?  Evaluate and deploy your resources in a way that maximizes the return for the team.


Like an orchestra, when viewed through the lens of management versus leadership, you may have some great individual contributors or even managers that execute their roles effectively but don't play well in a team and may cause discord, ultimately holding the team back.  Or your team may lack direction, focus, and a sense of urgency and ultimately success if they are not held accountable for both individual and team execution. One cannot win at the expense of the other.

There is a lot that goes into building and leading great teams but if you are both managing and leading effectively and if you can succinctly answer the questions above you are well on your way to harmonious success. If you cannot, get yourself a great coach and facilitator to help you get it right and soon you will be amazed at the effectiveness of your marketing and sales efforts!