The Difference Between Management and Leadership

Heather Hoerle

on February 8, 2017

The Difference Between Management and Leadership


Several years ago, a friend asked me,”What’s the difference between management and leadership?” She felt that I would have a ready answer, having just stepped over the proverbial line to become the leader of this association. I fumbled for a meaningful response. You see, at that time, the difference between managing and leading programs and people wasn’t immediately apparent to me.


Since then, I’ve done a great deal of reading and thinking about this question and it’s one that our community must consider in order to expand our influence within the decision-making hierarchies in our schools. The truth is that leadership and management are linked and complementary—yet they are not the same thing. In my short time here as executive director, I’ve learned a number of important leadership lessons that were not true for me as a manager:


  • Leaders must inspire and develop followers.
  • Leaders must continually challenge the status quo to ensure their organizations are making progress.
  • Leaders, increasingly, must let go of controls to serve larger goals.
  • Leaders must be future-focused, thinking many years ahead.
  • Leaders must be self-aware and independent.


Even with the differences named above, the lines between management and leadership are often blurred. Certainly the leadership lessons from our recent U.S. election suggest that outdated power structures and playbooks on leadership are giving way to the growing power of followership. Indeed, “followers” are now demanding that leaders create meaningful content and improved transparency in their work in order to earn support and trust.


No matter the nuanced differences between managing and leading, it is clear that no “knowledge worker” today can be effective without continual growth. With that in mind, I invite you to be part of The Enrollment Management Association’s upcoming events…attend the Erdmann Institute; join an Admission Leadership Council regional seminar this spring; become part of our cohort in the USC Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice (CERPP) Leadership in Enrollment Management certificate program (and check out their new master's program!) ; start planning your trip to San Diego for our 61st Annual Conference this September!


Over the summer, add one of these books (used by my team in our leadership discussions) to your reading list: Jim Collins’ Good to Great; Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team; Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg’s How Google Works; the wonderful fable How Stella Saved the Farm; and Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels (which describes leadership issues during The Civil War).


Here’s to improving our collective knowledge and commitment to leadership in the enrollment management community!