Updated September 5th, 2023
One frequently asked question in my coaching sessions is, “Mak, you talk a lot about leadership. But I don’t understand the difference between leadership and management?” I’m not surprised it tops the list of what confuses many. I had the same question, too. I used to think, ‘ Well, I got promoted to manager, so I must automatically be a leader, right?’ Wrong. Leadership and management are separate skills.
In today’s post, I’ll answer this question by breaking down the differences between these essential skills and discuss leadership vs. management characteristics.
But first, to help you stand out in your new role, I recommend downloading my FREE Guide to helping you become an effective leader.
Before jumping into the differences between these two concepts, I should mention that you need leadership and management to lead your team effectively. Combining these aspects in your new role will help you achieve all your results and create a great work environment. Plus, it will enable you to identify the areas that need improvement so that you can succeed as a first-time manager.
A manager is responsible for achieving results and ensuring the operation runs smoothly in a team environment.
A leader’s main job is influencing and motivating people to achieve a common goal.
Here’s an important nugget for you:
While only some leaders need management skills, every manager needs leadership; sadly, this is not the rule in reality. Today, many managers operate without the proper leadership skills and training, and as a result, end up hurting many people. This is because of the focus on only results rather than lives and emotions, and so then people get discouraged and unmotivated.
Another crucial difference in leadership vs. management is that a manager usually has or requires a title, and the leader doesn’t. Usually, the manager is “the boss,” while a leader can be anyone on the team. You don’t need a promotion to be a leader, just a desire to create a difference and impact other people. As leadership expert Simon Sinek says, “Leadership is a choice, not a rank. It’s choosing to look out for the person on your left and the person on your right.”
If you find yourself leaning toward one area more than the other, I don’t want you to beat yourself up. Instead, I want to challenge you to work on developing the skills that need a little bit of a lift ?.
Let’s get into the details of each one to see how you can become an effective team leader in your new role.
Managers focus on clear communication of tasks, roles, and responsibilities. A manager’s typical communication style is telling their people what to do, ensuring everyone understands their duties, and doing the work as planned. For example, if there is a process change or an added workload, a manager will likely communicate what that is.
A manager might email you or update you in a team meeting that, moving forward, you will be answering calls for two different regions, giving you a date and what they expect of you, and that’s about it. They also expect you to provide a response or a result as feedback.
A manager’s focus is generally on the system. Managers prioritize tasks and projects, focusing mainly on providing resources, setting goals, and ensuring work is completed on time and within budget. Because they’re very task-oriented, they spend a lot of time in the day-to-day activities. A manager also looks for ways to improve processes and ensure everyone complies with the team or company standards. It is the part usually where holding people accountable comes in.
A manager also spends a lot of time tracking and measuring, which means a large part of the role generates and analyzes reporting. The whole reason is to figure out how to get maximum input outputs. In other words, they are looking to maximize productivity for efficiency.
Having tangible results can help them make accurate decisions for the team and provide the resources to improve or maintain those KPIs.
Because managers are very steeped in the day-to-day tasks, they often respond to change as it happens. Of course, it is a disadvantage for the team, given that there’s no vision, backup plan, or sometimes motivation to find the ideal solution for a change or problem.
To summarize management characteristics, it’s all very tactical, focused on schedules, budgets, and resource allocation.
A leader’s focus is more on mission, vision, and purpose. A leader will think about why and generally ask themselves, why do we do what we do? and why does what we do matter? Then, take that why, define it, and communicate it with their team members to help them understand the importance of what they do.
Leaders give team members a sense of purpose, and this energy is what people want to follow.
Leaders will strive to take their people from a starting point to the vision through motivating, inspiring, and influencing. Rather than control, they choose mentorship and empowerment and inspire their teams to make decisions and take ownership of their work.
Since leaders spend far less time in the weeds or typical day-to-day tasks, they can respond rather than react, allowing them to be proactive. Focusing on the solutions rather than the problems can be a huge mood changer in a team and promote a friendlier work environment where everyone’s opinions matter.
Leaders think of significance over efficiency and are willing to take risks to test their hypotheses. Focusing on the big picture allows them to think about long-term goals and the strategic direction of the team or organization to add innovation and change progressively.
A leader will most often model the behavior they desire to see by being the first to display the values daily. Leaders foster a positive culture, encouraging collaboration and developing their team members’ potential. They often lead by example and create an environment where people feel valued and motivated.
All in all, a leader is people-oriented. Think clear communication, transparency, emotions, transformational, and inspiring.
As I mentioned previously, there is a need for managers, in particular, to have a combination of both skills. Because a manager’s tasks will never get done without energy and motivation, as it is people doing the work, not robots. People are emotional beings, so although it is a place of work, a humanity element needs to be infused into the day-to-day if you want to get things done.
In the comment section below, let me know which side of the spectrum you lean toward. leadership vs. management, and don’t be shy! Also, leave one action step that you will take to develop the skills you notice need some improvement.
Don’t forget to download the FREE Guide to help you get organized and focused on the right efforts as you begin your journey into management!
June 9, 2020