The Good Owner ... Management vs. Leadership

Posted By: Jere Smith Education, Membership,

From time to time, organizations struggle to find their way and to achieve their goals. The high-performing operation constantly looks for ways to get better. That is the essence of existence and growth in a dynamic business environment. Leadership and Management are both critical to the success of most human enterprises. There is a wealth of writing and discussion that flows on both themes.

Sometimes the two terms are used and understood to be interchangeable, which may be a mistake. A discussion and exploration of each concept and the subtle but fundamental differences between the two may be advantageous. Focusing your organization’s efforts in the proper direction can put your team in a better position for success.

Management is critical to get you from point A to point B. Leadership determines if you are actually at point A and, more importantly, do you really want to get to point B. In summary, the difference is doing things right(management) versus doing the right things (leadership). Both are critical for project and organizational success.

To employ one of Steve Jobs inspirational quotes, ''Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while Leadership is about inspiring people to do the things they never thought they could."

Leadership is the manner of dealing with or guiding people and resources. It focuses on innovation, making changes, inspiration, and motivation for better results. This includes creating a vision, mission and goals, establishing proper attitudes and behaviors, defining priorities, making timely decisions, picking your battles, and what can be characterized as soft solutions.

Management is the process of arranging, monitoring, and controlling things and or people. It focuses on organization, consistency, and analysis for better results. This includes creating, documenting and applying processes, procedures, standards, rules, and technology. It examines and analyzes data, makes adjustments in people, resources, and processes in what can be described and absolute solutions.

As with many endeavors in life, it’s about compromise. You need enough management built into the enterprise to keep things in order and moving forward. But you need enough leadership to keep the goals and vision in front of you and to not let the machine stop you from seeing or reaching them. Leadership requires maintaining your situational awareness and being nimble enough to adjust processes as necessary.


A Leader sets objectives, motivates, communicates, develops people and resources, and responds to outcomes. Leadership is what determines who you are and what you want to be, what you want to be known for, where you want to go, what path you want to take and what adjustments are made along the way.


A Manager organizes, establishes benchmarks, measures and evaluates people, resources and outcomes. Management focuses on creating processes, identifying tools and executing tasks, functions, and activities. It executes operational strategies that align with an organization's mission and goals.


Leadership is what creates your culture; management implements your strategy. It has been said that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Management is more analytical and may be more easily taught. It is right brain activity, concentrating on systems, processes, resources, controlling, monitoring, policies, etc.


Leadership is more organic and while the spark is there in some individuals, sometimes that essence needs to be developed and time to mature. It is left brain activity, focusing on vision, inspiration, values, etc. Some individuals may not get it or may not have a wide enough view. That’s not wrong. It takes all types to achieve success.


Leaders should be principled, transparent, demonstrating to others what you are seeking. Your values become the organization’s values. You sometimes have to make courageous, unpopular, maybe even inefficient decisions for the good of the project. Leaders spend their time doing things only they can do for their organization.


Managers should design systems and structures that tend to reward the excellent and motivate the mediocre to become better. Organizational structure and process, while necessary, can enhance success but on its own cannot assure success. Establish processes that keep the focus on the product, mission, or customer.


Take care not to micromanage. It has a tendency to choke the life out of people. Manage with a clear but light hand. Success typically comes from putting the right people in the right places and letting them thrive. Don’t let tactics take the place of trust.


In summary, as in many complex human undertakings, you must strike a balance. Management can often be somewhat rigid, nearsighted, and directionless without dynamic Leadership. Leadership can be unsystematic and inefficient and degrade into chaos without adequate Management.


Keep focus on what really matters. It is seldom about programs, processes, and procedures. That doesn't mean that these cannot support better outcomes, however no single item inherently leads to that improvement. If there was a product that could assure success regardless of the quality of people it would be in place in every office, on every project.


We can all recall an innovation that was touted as the answer to project management. Often these things are expected to solve all our woes. We must keep in mind that programs or lack of programs are not the problem or the solution, they are tools. If we continue to cling to the belief that a program or process is the solution, we may miss out on what really makes the difference … as “The “COAA Way” states, it’s about the people and the culture.

MANAGEMENT = Consistency for better results (e.g.: processes, procedures, rules, etc.)

LEADERSHIP = Change for better results (e.g.: attitude, behavior, soft solutions, etc.)



  1. Practice consistency
  2. Focus on the product or customer
  3. Every engine has exhaust or inefficiency
  4. Be flexible, make adjustments as necessary
  5. Stay data driven, but monitor exceptions
  6. Give regular performance feedback, even if it’s tough
  7. Manage conflict, it doesn’t get better
  8. Don’t let perfect get in the way of great
  9. Make meetings matter
  10. There is often more than one way to do things
  1. Strategic planning
  2. Communicate a vision
  3. Motivate and inspire individuals
  4. Coach for superior results
  5. Listen and empathize
  6. Build and maintain relationships
  7. Leverage teamwork
  8. Develop creative strategies
  9. Empower people, grow other leaders
  10. Reinvent the organization

Jere Smith 
© 2022

Jere Smith is the past-president of COAA-GA, an Atlanta native, an architect, and a lifelong builder. A graduate of Southern Polytechnic State University and Clemson University, he is currently the Director of Capital Improvements for the Atlanta Public Schools. For more information he can be reached at