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Management V Leadership – what’s the difference?


This is a common question frequently asked within organisations. It is an important question from a company’s viewpoint because you need both managers and leaders in order to achieve business success. After all, if everyone was a leader there would be no-one to actually get things done and if everyone was a manager there would be no-one to, well, lead!

So what is the difference and does it really matter? The answer to this is ‘yes, it matters’, because unless you know the difference you can’t possibly develop people and it becomes difficult to identify the appropriate management training courses and leadership training courses. Not everyone wants to be leader, just like not everyone suits a management role, but having a clear distinction enables an organisation to ensure that they develop the right skills set.

It is important to point out that many people in senior positions are both managers and leaders depending on the requirements of the role and so good leadership development covers both aspects. However, there are certain key distinctions between management and leadership and these are explained below:-

Managers have teams, Leaders have followers

Managers tend to have a team of people who they direct. They agree a set of objectives to be achieved and monitor how they are performing and most management skills training focuses in this aspect of the role. People comply with this arrangement largely because they get a reward for it (their salary).

Leaders persuade people to do things by different methods. Leaders will influence people through their ‘hearts and minds’. They inspire, motivate and empower people to follow them and their vision. You know when you have been in the presence of a great leader because you feel as excited about their vision as they do.

Managers maintain, Leaders innovate

Managers tend to maintain the status quo following established procedures, processes and systems. They are focused on getting things done to required standards of performance and, although they look for better ways to do things, their job is largely about implementation.

Leaders innovate and challenge the status quo. They are continually looking to the future, moving forward and doing things better. They are opportunity seeking and enjoy challenges and taking risks. They have the vision and the confidence to know that with good people they can achieve their goals.

Managers focus on the ‘how’, Leaders focus on the ‘what’

A Manager’s role is primarily concerned with ‘how’ to achieve objectives, targets and goals. Their focus is on the operational day-to-day issues and how to overcome them. They are usually detailed focused and consider all the finer points of a project or tasks.

Leaders are focused on the bigger picture and establishing the direction for an organisation. They consider ‘what’ they want to achieve and bring people along with them by the sheer passion of their convictions. Leaders are usually charismatic communicators with a high degree of empathy so that they understand what makes other people ‘tick’ and can get them on board with their ideas.

Dale Kirke works as a learning and development specialist at Thales Training and Consultancy  focussed on growing leadership capability, building great teams and encouraging high performance. Dale has designed and delivered a range of learning and development solutions specialising in the areas of leadership and management, people and performance management, interpersonal skills and team development.

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