Management and Leadership

Dear Management Doctor:

In the public administration field, there seems to be a growing movement to define a difference between management and leadership. Do you have any good resources to describe the difference? I heard a statement recently that we should be managing resources and leading people.

Mark E. Stivers, AICP
East Hempfield Township, PA

Dear Mark,
This is an interesting topic that I have been thinking about at great length. I wrote an entire chapter on this topic in my new book, The ABZs of Planning Management, Second Edition. Look at Chapter 1, pages 3 to 10. If you don't have your copy yet, you can order it at I am also writing a chapter on this topic for a book being written by others so I can't yet share that information but will share a few ideas below.

The theory has been that there is a difference between management and leadership. Leaders tend to know or suggest where to go (setting the clear direction) and managers figure out how to get there (keeping the trains running on time). This is still the case. However, in today's world I see leading and managing often merging.

Let's talk more specifically about Planning Directors. I think they need to be both leaders and managers. Unfortunately, many good leaders are poor managers, and many managers are poor leaders. So, since Planning Departments need both, this can be a dilemma. For larger departments, I suggest the Director have good leadership skills and hire an Assistant Director with good management skills. For smaller departments, you need to try to be both.

One saving grace is, in government the Mayor and City Council want to be, or at least think they are, leaders. The Planning Director needs to help them be so. Unfortunately, Planning Directors in many communities are too afraid to also lead and the profession desperately needs more leaders. Should the Planning Department be well managed? Of course. Should the Planning Director both manage resources and lead people? Of course.

But remember, if you are going in the wrong direction, it doesn't do you any good to get there faster.

The Management Doctor
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