Leadership and Management: Why You Need Both

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Leadership and Management: Why You Need Both

ACSM's Resources for the Exercise Physiologist |  Oct. 14, 2020



Leadership Management

Leadership and Management: Why You Need Both
This selected article is an excerpt from ACSM's Resources for the Exercise Physiologist Textbook (Download below)


Management and leadership, whether independent of each other or in combination, are necessary within the health fitness industry (1). There are clear differences between leadership and management that can be summarized as in leadership, people are led; in management, resources are managed.

Often, the exercise physiologist might fall into the trap of wanting to manage people, and this is an important and central skill set for the exercise physiologist; however, management should not be a substitute for leadership. The temptation to manage people is because it is perceived as easier than leading. For example, managing might lead to “punishing” by enforcing established policies and procedures, whereas leading may involve discussion, negotiation, and established new ways of operating.



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Operationally, leadership is the ability to facilitate and influence others (i.e., superiors, peers, and subordinates) to make recognizable strides toward shared and unshared objectives (1). Management is the ability to use organizational resources to accomplish predetermined objectives (1). Leadership transcends the workplace, whereas management is often confined to the workplace.

For example, in a health and fitness setting, leadership is demonstrated when the exercise physiologist motivates and inspires clients or patients to make needed lifestyle changes. However, management in this situation may require the exercise physiologist to add additional or longer training days, make a referral to other health professionals, or schedule additional consultations. This would require having a well-organized, managed schedule and referral system in place.

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Management and leadership are not always different. In fact, it is not unusual for them to have similar outcome objectives and for both to project power and use influence. However, the differences between leadership and management may best be delineated in the examination of intended outcomes and processes. The intended outcome of leadership is typically change, vision casting, and innovation; the intended outcome of management is predictability, vision implementation, and maintaining the efficient status quo. These two constructs often require different techniques and operate from fundamentally different frameworks.

Dye and Garman describe management as the “science” of mitigating risk, whereas “leadership is the art of taking risks.” Therefore, leadership tends to use vision casting, alignment, meaningful communication, self-reflection, and self-assessment to develop willing followers, whereas management uses “planning, organizing, controlling, and coordinating,” regardless of its subordinate’s willingness (5).

Stated another way, management is a function or role within an organization, and leadership is a relationship between the follower and the leader, regardless of the organizational context (6). Any time something occurs despite the context, complexity is involved. This further helps us to distinguish between management and leadership. Leadership takes place in a complex environment where boundaries and borders are not clearly delineated. With leadership, there are many variables to consider in the decision-making process (this is also true of management); however, in leadership, those variables are not easily separated.

On the other hand, management is often understood as complicated (as opposed to complex), which means it also has many variables, but often, those variables can be separated and operate independent of each other. This is not true with leadership, as we have already mentioned they are interdependent and are not easily separated.

Another distinguishing factor is that management is required when problems arise of a technical nature, which requires preestablished policies and procedures to be enacted, whereas leadership is required when problems do not have preestablished solutions and instead require adaptability, critical thinking, creativity, and innovation (7).

Although management and leadership are generally accepted as distinct, they are not necessarily exclusive, as both need to exist to efficiently operate at health/fitness facility. Therefore, the exercise physiologist should be able to manage a facility (budget, mitigate risk, use policy and procedures, etc.) while also leading people (inspire, communicate, motivate, exhibit empathy and ethical behavior, etc.). 


The Central Tendencies That Differentiate Leadership and Management

Leadership’s Tendencies

Management’s Tendencies



Vision caster

Vision implementer


Maintains status quo

Motivated to take risk

Motivated to analyze risk

Influence/authority transcends the organization

Influence/authority confined to within the organization

Solves unexpected and novel problems with creativity

Solves known and technical problems with established policy and procedure



Focus on long term

Focus on short term

Identifies opportunities

Identifies obstacles

Idea- and person-centered

System and plan centered

Shares information freely

Shares “need to know” information

Uses interpersonal skills to handle conflict

Uses precedent, policy, procedure to handle conflict

Places emphasis on team accomplishments

Places emphasis on individual performance

Works to prevent conflict or problems

Works to solve existing conflicts or problems



Ready to learn more about being an effective leader and manager? ACSM’s Resources for the Exercise Physiologist, 2nd edition covers the practice and practical information you need to prepare for a career as a certified exercise physiologist.



1. Kutz MR. Leadership and Management in Athletic Training: An Integrated Approach. Baltimore (MD): Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2010. 331 p.

2. Nellis SM. Leadership and management: techniques and principles for athletic training. J Athl Train. 1994;19(4):328–35.

3. Yukl GA. Leadership in Organizations. Englewood Cliffs (NJ): Prentice-Hall; 2002. 508 p.

4.  Dye CF, Garman AN. Exceptional Leadership: 16 Critical Competencies for Healthcare Executives. Chicago (IL): Health Administration Press; 2006. 227 p.

5. Kent T. Leading and managing: it takes two to tango. Manag Decis. 2005;43(7/8):1010–7.

6. Maccoby M. Understanding the difference between management and leadership. Res Technol Manag. 2000;43:57–9.

7.  Heifetz R. Anchoring leadership in the work of adaptive progress. In: Hesselbein F, Goldsmith M, editors. The Leader of the Future 2. San Francisco (CA): Jossey-Bass; 2006. p. 73–84.


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