1. Rowitz, Louis PhD

Article Content

"Yes Virginia, there is a difference between management and leadership." The preceding four articles address the issue of management and leadership and sometimes blur the distinctions between those skills necessary to be a good manager or to be a good leader. The articles also looked at the issue of organization and how organizations increased effectiveness through the skills and talents of their top administrators. Gaufin, Kennedy, and Struthers (this issue) looked at ways to intentionally develop the leaders in an organization by utilizing a number of actions and strategies. Thompson (this issue) concentrated on management as a way to expedite change in an organization. He also saw leadership and management as part of the same basic administration process. Williams, Costich, Hacker, and Davis (this issue) presented the necessity of administrators developing a systems thinking perspective. They uniquely saw an opportunity to use systems thinking methods for state officials with their academic partners to evaluate a learning management system. The implication of their work is a recognition that systems thinking is an important leadership set of skills. Rubin and Stone (this issue) saw management and leadership as similar activities and used Managing by Walking Around as a leadership exercise.


Management and leadership are not the same and the skills needed for both are not simple and tend to be multilayered. One way to look at management and leadership is to put these two dimensions on a management and leadership continuum. Table 1 shows this continuum from management to transformational leadership with three stops in between. Public health professionals build upon their initial educational experiences and incorporate management and then leadership skills as they take on administrative responsibilities. Although it is true that position does not make the leader, it is also true that administrative roles help individuals take on leadership responsibilities. Leadership is tied to lifelong learning. Whereas management involves more structured activities, leadership is more about using and learning new skills as context and reality changes the overall public health landscape.

Table 1 - Click to enlarge in new windowTable 1. Management and leadership continuum with skill sets

Traditionally, management was about the organization and what was needed to advance the organization from a profit orientation. The role of the top administrators was to make sure that the organization ran smoothly. The administrator tended to run the organization in a top-down manner. The manager tended to be a linear thinker who created rules, regulations, and protocols that were to be followed in a consistent manner. The manager's orientation tended to try to follow the status quo and not to create disruption in the organization. Public agencies have tended to follow the same model and still do to a great extent. The major skills of the manager involved planning as a method to keep the organization moving in a coordinated manner, organizing activities so that the work gets done effectively and efficiently, managing the staff so that they follow rules and work procedures, controlling activities so they are accomplished as planned, monitoring budgets so that the agency functions within economic guidelines, write business plans and grants if applicable, and resolve conflicts that may upset the workflow. In more recent times, human resource issues have become more important in recognizing the human factor in organizations. The command and control model of management has also been used to describe more authoritarian approaches to leadership.


This more traditional approach to management did not seem to be the way management was viewed in any of the four articles in this section. The use of management, management skills, and leadership inside organizations seemed to be more in terms of the second dimension of the management and leadership continuum shown in Table 1 organizational leadership. The people factor is central to this second dimension. The importance of motivating employees and understanding that personal factors often lead to more efficiency in organizations is seen as critical today. We now concentrate on selecting new employees not only on the basis of their technical or professional skills but now also on the basis of their talents and personal strengths. There is recognition that emotional intelligence issues are also important. Whereas technical skills may help people get a job, it is often emotional intelligence factors that help people keep their jobs. Coaching employees becomes important. The search for leadership capabilities becomes apparent. The organizational leader understands the importance of vision and modifying organizational structures to improve the capacity of the organization to deliver high-quality programs and services. Building teams inside the organization becomes critical to the sharing of power and also recognition that all employees have experiences and skills to offer. Finally, there is some recognition that the organization needs to work with the external environment to create change. Doing work collaboratively with others means that organizational leaders often need to manage the program portfolios of those inside and outside the organization working together on some programmatic priority.


The third dimension of the continuum involves the characteristics of transactional leadership. As the organization and its leaders look outward, collaboration becomes more important. The issue of working across agencies is a primary premise in the new specialty area called meta-leadership. The important sets of skills for the transactional leader are building relationships and exploring ways to share power and influence. Reciprocity is a key variable here. There is also the need to explore all types of communication approaches in building and maintaining relationships. Training opportunities are often explored by these leaders. The approach that Gaufin and her colleagues presented would seem to flow from both organizational and transactional leadership models.


Strategic leadership is about the implementation of change. Systems thinking is very important for these leaders. Strategic thinking involves the use of methods to make policies and programs work. These leaders realize that their partners in collaboration are not all committed to the collaboration process in the same way. It is important to determine which partners will be more effective in the implementation of programs and policies. Strategic leaders utilize data extensively and are very analytic in their use of information. The tools of community assessment, stakeholder analysis, community-building approaches, performance measurement, accreditation, and other tools often guide and aid the strategic leader in decision making. These leaders will often explore creative approaches to addressing program challenges. They also will develop key skills in negotiation because they work both within their agencies and outside their agencies with their community partners.


The final dimension of the continuum relates to change and transformation. The skills of these leaders are high-powered. These leaders know how to select the right partners to be involved in policy and programmatic change. They are complexity thinkers who are concerned with systems transformation. They do not superimpose a structure on their work with others; they let structure evolve and be flexible as necessary. Commitment to the process and the policy and programmatic outcomes are the key concern. Challenge is the orientation and not problem solving. Creativity is the working orientation.


What this commentary has tried to demonstrate is that there is a need to clarify the activities of management and those of leadership. The skills are different, but they do interact. Leaders need to be good managers as well or have good managers around. Leadership is more about vision and management more about mission. Mission is needed if vision is to have any relevance. The management and leadership continuum gives some guidance to understanding the differences between managers and leaders, although skill sets do overlap the five dimensions. Leaders also add to their skill sets throughout their professional careers. How we use leadership skills will change as the context of our public health work changes.




1. Rowitz L. The leadership change cycle (February 2009) and ecological leadership (September 2009). Accessed December 1, 2009.