Management, Leadership, & Organizational Change

Management, Leadership, & Organizational Change

by Yeding Liu


This paper explores the relationship of management versus leadership in a context of organizational change. It briefly examines how management and leadership are intertwined and how they differ, comparing how they sustain organizational change to drive performance, results, and ultimately success.


Spearheading any type of significant change within an organization is a challenge that every leader must regularly take. Many forces that are for and against change exist in almost every facet of business, and our own lives for that matter. Leaders of an organization must “adjust to a multicultural environment, demographic changes, immigration, and outsourcing” (Robbins & Judge, 2010, p. 590) as these factors are the basis for the organization to constantly self-reflect and to also heed to the rallying call of “change or die” (p. 590). Being consistent in business is a familiar road to failure; organizations must look to innovate, evaluate where their customers are driving them next, and project what revenue demands will be as they focus both inward and outward to collect information on how best to react to a changing environment. Thus, the emphasis has been placed on leadership and how best to manage and lead organizations toward the change that is necessary for them to survive and thrive. Does excellent management drive change, or to be successful do businesses today need a change agent, a leader responsible for managing the change activities? (Robbins & Judge, 2010).

Working Together for a Common Goal

Some define management as a focus and a priority towards operations, plans, and particular moving pieces within an organization. Management focuses on directing, coordinating, and executing goals with a particular authority given to this “management position.” The term management has been defined as “the process of achieving organizational goals through
planning, organizing, leading, and controlling the human, physical, financial, and information
resources of the organization in an effective and effcient manner” (Bovée et al., 1993, p. 5). An additional definition highlights the complexity, as management is “the process of reaching organizational goals by working with and through people and other organizational resources” (Certo & Certo, 2016, p. 37).

From these definitions, it should be immediately apparent that management is intertwined in almost every aspect of leadership and organizational change, to the point that defining management separately from leadership and organizational change is difficult and, arguably, counterproductive. As Jones and George (2018) note, “Management, then, is the planning, organizing, leading, and controlling of human and other resources to achieve organizational goals effciently and effectively” (p. 5).

This paper supposes that management is working together for a common goal, which requires leadership and often generates organizational change and advancement. While management is likely an overused term in ordinary language regarding organizations, teams, and even households, it conjures feelings of control behind the scenes by an individual to accomplish a goal or set of goals. While this term does highlight control by an individual or group of individuals, it does not define the specifics or traits of those individuals to execute best practices of management.

What is also relevant is that management applies to almost any field, from education to engineering to finance. Nevertheless, it is difficult and elusive to discover where leadership and management begin and end and where they are commingled. Loosely, almost any type of leadership could be called management by a layperson and vice-versa. Further, the Merriam-Webster definition does little to help, with management defined as “the act or art of managing: the conducting or supervising of something (such as a business)” (Management, 2020, para. 1). Therefore, if this article defines management as coordinating others working towards a common goal, it seems that leadership would be a loftier set of expectations, such as motivating the working together for a common purpose. While this article will not go into detail on the literature and research on these differences, it would seem from an initial and high-level review of writings that while management is indeed leadership within an organization, that the definition of leadership is leading the entirety of the organization and advancing it as a whole. As Jamie Dimond, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, one of the most influential and intelligent financial leaders of today recently noted, “in management it is follow-up, get it done, it’s analytics, get people in the room, it’s follow-up, get people on the road, put in the hours, its learn, learn, learn…it doesn’t necessarily make you a great leader, because a great leader is someone that someone wants to follow” (Novak, 2020, 7:54).

Working Together for a Common Purpose

A leader is a person who “influences, directs, and motivates others to perform specific tasks and also inspires their subordinates for efficient performance towards the accomplishment of the stated corporate objectives” (Ojokuku & Odetayo, 2012, p. 203) Indeed leaders, such as the previously referenced CEO of JP Morgan Chase, understand that leadership is different from management. It is inseparable from actually being a manager, but leaders also must inspire while managing teams of individuals to accomplish goals. This task is applied management across an organization, which creates followers with alliegence to the same goals that the leader creates as priorities.

Creating priorities for an organization must include gathering several data points by the leader from across the organization. Also, this must occur through feedback from members of the organization and especially key stakeholders. However, leadership also requires a vision for what the organization must work towards in the future. As Kaplan (2011) noted, “…leaders need to build their organizations to compete in a dynamic marketplace. They need to anticipate where the world is going” (p. 48) This means not only the collection of information from within the organization, but leadership also requires an understanding of how the organization fits into the overall market and industry in which it operates. It requires a combination of being in the detail of the day-to-day, while also maintaining a 30,000 ft view and lengthy-time horizon as an added context for decision making.

One of the most important decisions that any leader will make most likely will have to do with hiring those who surround, support, and work for the organization. As Peter Drucker (1985) noted, “executives spend more time on managing people and making people decisions than on anything else—and they should. No other decisions are so long-lasting in their consequences or so difficult to unmake” (p. 1) Careful hiring decisions may be an obvious area where management crosses over with leadership. A leader needs to build a team of followers to work towards a shared vision; however, the manager must work to have processes to bring the right personnel aboard, put them into the right positions, and curate the overall day-to-day function of the business. In this area, leaders are in the management detail, as they build a group of followers toward a shared vision.

As Kouzes and Posner (2008) suppose, inspire a shared vision is a crucial component to exceptional leadership. This vision must stem from the leader and the data points collected across the organization. This vision must be imparted to employees, both new and those who have been with the organization for a period of time. This vision must also be informed by the future tendency and direction that the business will be demanded to follow by the marketplace. When all of this comes together, “Leaders have to be sure that what they see is also something that others can see. When visions are shared, they attract more people, sustain higher levels of motivation, and withstand more challenges than those that are singular” (p. 77) Having a shared vision across the organization by a leader capable of managing, and being someone that others will follow, is an excellent start to achieving and driving organizational change. Leaders can set the stage for change by building teams and managing them effectively. However, it is inspiring a shared vision and then executing on the goals that result from that execution, which will ultimately lead towards measurable results through actionable change that is sustained and advances the goals and vision.

Organizational Change:
Working for Goal Advancement

Establishing an urgent and compelling need for change and communicating that need, thereby creating a sense of urgency, is foundational to organizational change, and the overall advancement of the vision. “Establishing a sense of urgency is crucial to gaining needed cooperation” (Kotter, 2012, p. 37). Kotter (2012) argues that complacency will be high without this sense of urgency, and that when complacency occurs, it is challenging to establish change, because too few people will be interested in working on the issue. There can be many sources of complacency within an organization that a leader must be aware of and manage with a team on a daily basis. Increasing the urgency to act on a vision and manage change is crucial. The previously referenced Jamie Dimond is famously known for the mantra, “Do it Today” (Novak, 2020, 16:54).

“Increasing urgency,” argues Kotter (2012), “demands that you remove sources of complacency or minimize their impact” (p. 44). A leader’s strategy may include involving other team members and managers in environmental analysis and then making appropriate choices to help the team act on an urgent need for change. Once a change initiative occurs, barriers must be removed for the change to continue. “Come with me” is the mantra of the leadership style that bridges the gap from management to leadership, which then produces organizational change (Goleman, 2000). The daily process of getting others to mobilize towards that shared vision will happen by an invitation to help plan the roadmap toward a shared picture of the future.

Northouse (1997) describes this as affiliative leadership: “from the decision-making behaviors of individual leaders to what leaders do to enable followers to grow, learn, and engage in collaborative, team-oriented decision making” (pp. 242-243). A team that functions effectively is one in which the organization’s culture is ultimately the responsibility of all members through the empowerment they receive (Block, 1993, p. 49). In this type of relationship, not only does the leader invite and acknowledge the individual by virtue of his or her inclination towards a people-based leadership style, but in effect, the vision for the organization at its best may become a synergy of all its constituents’ consistent contributions. When affiliative leadership optimally recruits the talent and human resources of all involved, “leaders and constituents are mutually responsible for the same effects, with or without explicitly shared decision making” (Senge et al., 1994, p. 72).


“The best team leaders are able to get everyone to buy into a common sense of mission, goals, and agenda. The ability to articulate a compelling vision that serves as the guiding force for the group may be the single most important contribution of a good team leader” (Goleman, 1998, p. 223). Although this paper has shown that management is an integral part of a leaders effort to sustain lasting organizational change, it cannot be done in isolation. Management combined with a good team and the leader’s ability to inspire and create a vision for the future that has engagement throughout the organization is critical to success. An additional component to that success is a willingness to act on change initiatives quickly and deliberately once the organization’s goals are built and shared as a common purpose. At that point, the leader’s hand is extended as an invitation to employees through the company to join this vital effort of long-term growth, improvement, and success.


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