Management or leadership? Are they the same? Is one “better” than the other? And when is each required? While effective management and leadership are tools that support progress in organizational life, their application depends on need and context. Like knowing when to use a wrench or a hammer, individuals confronting challenges must understand the critical distinction between when to deploy management versus leadership.

As our world changes and grows increasingly more connected and complex, technical solutions are no longer solely sufficient to address the multifarious challenges we face. Effective management can help us design systems and processes to execute against goal-driven, clearly defined outcomes (even if technically complex.) Leadership, on the other hand, is required to navigate complex problems for which there is no known answer, because the often termed “wicked problems” (think global warming) require experimentation, learning, and adaptation. Teams that can effectively navigate and deploy action in an increasingly complex system, leveraging management and leadership appropriately, succeed.

This diagram helps us understand the distinction between management and leadership and clarifies when each is relevant: