What Leaders Really Do
John P. Kotter
Leadership is different from management, but not for the reasons most people think.
Leadership isn’t mystical
and mysterious. It has nothing to do with having “charisma” or other exotic personality traits. It is not the
province of a chosen few.
Nor is leadership necessarily better than management or a replacement for it.
Rather, leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action.
Each has its own
function and characteristic activities. Both are necessary for success in an increasingly complex and volatile
Most U. S. corporations today are over managed and underled.
They need to develop their capacity to exercise
Successful corporations don’t wait for leaders to come along.
They actively seek out people with
leadership potential and expose them to career experiences designed to develop that potential.
careful selection, nurturing, and encouragement, dozens of people can play important leadership roles in a
But while improving their ability to lead, companies should remember that strong leadership with weak
management is no better, and is sometimes actually worse, than the reverse. The real challenge is to combine
strong leadership and strong management and use each to balance the other.
Of course, not everyone can be good at both leading and managing.
Some people have the capacity to become
excellent managers but not strong leaders.
Others have great leadership potential but, for a variety of reasons,
have great difficulty becoming strong managers.
Smart companies value both kinds of people and work hard to
make them a part of the team.
But when it comes to preparing people for executive jobs, such companies rightly ignore the recent literature that
says people cannot manage
They try to develop leader-managers.
Once companies understand the
fundamental difference between leadership and management, they can begin to groom their top people to provide
The Difference Between Management and Leadership
Management is about coping with complexity.
Its practices and procedures are largely a response to one of the
most significant developments of the twentieth century:
the emergence of large organizations.
management, complex enterprises tend to become chaotic in ways that threaten their very existence.
management brings a degree of order and consistency to key dimensions like the quality and profitability of
Leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change.
Part of the reason it has become so important in recent
years is that the business world has become more competitive and more volatile. Faster technological change,
greater international competition, the deregulation of markets, overcapacity in capital-intensive industries, an
unstable oil cartel, raiders with junk bonds, and the changing demographics of the work force are among the many
factors that have contributed to this shift. The net result is that doing what was done yesterday, or doing it 5%