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Management vs Leadership: What's the Difference?

People often mistake leadership and management as one and the same, but ultimately, they are very different.

4 mins

Having specialised in leadership and management for over ten years, I am often asked what the difference is. It’s true that people often mistake leadership and management as one and the same thing, but ultimately, they are very different.

Management and leadership are both very important elements of business. In my opinion, leadership is about influencing, motivating and inspiring people as well as communicating and believing in a vision you set for the company.  

Management is more about planning, delegating and administering work tasks as well as ensuring that the day-to-day activities are running as they should.

A very big difference between leadership and management, one often overlooked, is that leadership always involves leading a group of people, whereas management need only be responsible for processes or systems e.g., IT, finance, advertising and equipment. 

"Leadership always includes responsibility for people."

Many management roles have major people-management responsibilities however management does not necessarily include responsibility for people, whereas leadership always includes responsibility for people.

The roles of managers and leaders differ slightly to implement the vision of their organisation. Leaders possess a vision, which summarises the direction of the company or project, including how they want colleagues to act and what goals they think the company may wish to aim towards.

Leaders are more responsible for coming up with and sharing ideas and initiatives within an organisation. Managers are more likely to make sure that their team is executing these ideas accurately and efficiently. They may delegate roles and responsibilities to the employees. They're in control of the tasks and the people, aiming to complete tasks as efficiently as possible.

Leaders can inspire and empower their employees through the way they communicate and engage with them. Leaders have the potential to develop personal and strong relationships with their colleagues by providing feedback and communicating meaningfully, helping them to continue working towards the company's initiatives. They may also build relationships by encouraging two-way communication so that colleagues can voice their concerns. Meanwhile, managers likely support and guide the leader to ensure that they continue to work in an inspiring manner towards their employees.

One of the key differences between leaders and managers is that leaders focus on the future operations of the company, whereas managers focus on achieving the current tasks successfully. Managers implement processes, strategies, budgets, plans and responsibilities to ensure that they meet the current objectives. Leaders typically seek future initiatives and opportunities for the organisation – they may start planning how to achieve these opportunities while communicating clearly with employees to ensure that they're aware of the future direction of the company.

Culture is another way of describing the behaviours, values and beliefs that an organisation and its employees adhere to. Another key difference between managers and leaders is how they approach shaping the culture within their company. Leaders may be more likely to define the culture of their company, determining how the employees behave and represent the company. Leaders may choose to demonstrate these values to inspire colleagues to copy them, while managers are more likely to hold colleagues accountable for following or not following the culture of the organisation.

"Managers are more likely to tell an employee how well they're progressing, while leaders may tell that same individual how they can progress even more."

A key characteristic of leaders is that they inspire people to be their best professional selves. They strive to bring excellence out of their colleagues in their day-to-day working lives. Whilst managers can also do this if they have natural leadership skills, they may be more concerned with monitoring the progress of individuals. Managers are more likely to tell an employee how well they're progressing, while leaders may tell that same individual how they can progress even more.

The above are of course only some differences and despite such differences, leadership and management must go hand in hand for any business to be successful. It needs management that can plan, organise and coordinate its people, and leaders that are inspiring and motivating them to perform to the best of their ability.

Read more from Nikki here.


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