Public Health Administrators as Both Leaders and Managers

It is indeed true that the field of public health demands efficacy in terms of leadership and management. While managers in public health can be holistically trained to execute their roles, leaders are largely developed through talent management of human capital at the disposal of an organization. Practitioners and public health managers do face myriads of challenges while performing their roles owing to the high expectation of the public (Nienaber, 2010).

I have personally gained a lot of insight when it comes to leadership and management in public institutions. Of particular importance is the fact that I have had a number of opportunities to work with leaders and managers. From my experience, I have learned that managers still require leaders while executing their duties on a daily basis (McGurk, 2010). Nonetheless, the style of leadership adopted at workplace should be compatible with management ideals preferred by an organization.

Although the terms leadership and management are often used interchangeable to mean the same thing, it is crucial to mention that they are not similar when it comes to workplace application. For instance, while leaders are supposed to innovate new ideas, skills and competences, managers largely act as administrators. Some scholars also argue that leadership is inborn while management comes about after an individual has been trained (Yukl & Lepsinger, 2005) In addition, leaders are expected to develop processes as managers maintain the same processes. Other differences between managers and leaders are summarized in the table below:

Leaders Managers
They focus on people They focus on systems
Inspire trust Relies on control
Have long-range perspective Have short-range view

On the other hand, leaders and managers also exhibit a number of similarities. First, they are both charged with the duty of directing the efforts of others in organizations. In other words, leaders and managers act as figureheads at various workplaces with the sole goal of attaining desired changes. Moreover, leaders and managers strive to get people together by pooling their individual abilities. In other words, creating social influence is a common platform embraced by both leaders and managers. Needles to say, leaders and managers usually work or deliver their roles within the given limits, goals, confines or objectives bearing in mind that they are both result-oriented.

In spite of the clear divide between leadership and management, it does not imply that managers cannot be leaders and vice versa. As a matter of fact, most organizational managers gradually move to higher levels of management due to their articulate leadership skills. Effective managers are highly likely to be competent leaders at the same time. Besides, contemporary human resource development aims at tapping talent during the recruitment and selection process of employees. After they have been hired, rigorous capacity building and training takes place. This explains why it is possible to have great managers and great leaders in modern organizations.

As already hinted out, the field of public health demands specific professional attributes, skills, and styles of leadership and management owing to the growing challenges emanating from society (Darling & Nurmi, 2009). To begin with, leaders and managers in public health ought to demonstrate shared values that spell out ethical delivery of roles and responsibilities on a daily basis. Second, they should continually learn to build bridges that often bedevil the public sector. Seamless care is required by patients. Therefore, leaders and managers should connect the extremes of care delivery to patients without necessarily pointing an accusing finger to the weak systems of the public health delivery (Bennis, 2007).


Bennis, W. (2007). The challenges of leadership in the modern world: Introduction to the special issue. The American Psychologist, 62(1), 2–5.

Darling, J. R., & Nurmi, R. W. (2009). Key contemporary paradigms of management and leadership. European Business Review, 21(3), 201-214.

McGurk, P. (2010). Outcomes of management and leadership development. The Journal of Management Development, 29(5), 457-470.

Nienaber, H. (2010). Conceptualisation of management and leadership. Management Decision, 48(5), 661-675.

Yukl, G., &Lepsinger, R. (2005). Why integrating the leading and managing roles is essential for organizational effectiveness. Organizational Dynamics, 34(4), 361–375.