When faced with this question, the candidate should be tipped off that there’s a big difference between management and leadership. So if he comes back with “they’re pretty much the same thing,” he’s both wrong and obtuse, which is why I like this question. It’s okay if a candidate hasn’t though about a question before and doesn’t have a great answer. Leadership vs. management is a tough question for even seasoned professionals in leadership or management positions. I ask this question not because I expect the right answer, but because I like to hear the thought behind the candidate’s answer. I like to watch him go through the motions of formulating a response. I’ll ask him to take two or three minutes, grab a pen and paper, and prepare his answer. Then I watch.
Peter Drucker said the only definition of a leader is someone who has followers. I sometimes toss that on to the table and follow with “Why would someone have followers?”
Solid conversations almost always result from this question, making it my all-time favorite. And if the candidate can’t converse on this topic, they aren’t right for me.