Leadership and management are two terms that are frequently referenced in business and they are often mistakenly considered synonymous. And in truth, they are very closely related in that leaders often manage and management often leads, but there are subtle distinctions between the two terms that should be mentioned.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two terms lies in the literal meaning of each. Leadership can refer to both a research area and a practical skill describing the ability of one entity to guide other individuals, teams or organizations. There is a further distinction between how leadership is viewed in different geographic regions.[i]
Management refers to the actual administration of an organization-which can refer to private businesses, non-profit organizations, or governmental bodies. This term includes the coordination of employees or volunteers, direction for the use of resources and providing a strategy for achieving objectives. Management is typically structured as a hierarchy with set communication lines. It can also refer to an academic discipline or social science.[ii]
Given that the term management has a much more tangible and narrow meaning, it is easier to describe the role of management or a manager than it is to describe leadership. However, their roles are very difference, even though they may sometimes overlap. The role of a leader is to create a vision. They see the big picture and envision a scope that is beyond what an individual might accomplish alone. They also provide inspiration to other individuals that allows them to see the bigger picture as well. Managers will usually take care of the smaller details involved in actuating the vision. This would include setting, measuring and achieving goals. They will also work to control situations and variables to reach their objectives. [iii] Within these roles, an effective leader may also be an effective manager and vice versa. However, that is not necessarily a requirement either. Many organizations thrive with a ‘hands off’ leader, when there is a manager that can assume the day-to-day responsibilities.
Traits and skills
Effective leaders and managers tend to have a set of characteristics that can make them excel at the different aspects of each. Leaders tend to take more risks. They can be more self-aware, authentic and transparent, which are good traits for building a unique brand. Leaders think of the long-term goals and derive motivation from that. They also tend to help people grow personally by nurturing talents and fostering knowledge, a trait which makes them effective coaches. Great leaders remain curious and try to expand their own knowledge and way of thinking, and they also tend to focus on building relationships.[iv]
In contrast to leadership, which embraces a set of traits that can be considered risky, management tends to stick with safer bets. While leaders disrupt a certain status through innovation, managers tend to stick with something that has already proven successful and instead try to refine it to be even more effective. They mimic other leaders’ styles once it has proven successful and they work to minimize risk by avoiding problems. While leaders think about the long run managers tend to focus on short-term goals and will assign tasks and develop plans for accomplishing them.[v]
Leadership and management tend to also have a different focus. Leaders recruit followers, whereas managers recruit subordinates. This is due to the fact that leaders are more people-focused. Oftentimes, they will give credit for successes to others and conversely, take blame for failures themselves. They can also be considered aloof and will maintain a degree of separation despite the fact that they tend to be good with people. The culmination of this approach is that they typically inspire people to follow them while creating very strong loyalty.[vi]
Instead of recruiting followers, managers tend to have subordinates. Their power is more formalized through an authoritarian style. They never lose sight of the fact that they are paid to complete a job and their thoughts are always task-oriented and focused on the completion of that work.[vii]
Since the focus of leadership and management is different, there tend to be different tasks associated with both roles. Generally speaking, management is concerned with the allocation of resources, including human, time, money, and equipment, in order to efficiently complete the work. This includes planning the resources and tasks needed to achieve the objectives. They will also manage budget constraints while organizing the support functions. Managers must also be concerned with controlling the standards so that they meet the objectives, allocate resources for each task, and ensure that proper time management is utilized. All of these tasks have components of decision making and problem solving that will also be a large part of any manager’s day.[viii]
The tasks that are associated with leadership are those that will focus on leading by example to inspire and empower others so that an environment that can foster team success is created. This would include creating the vision and inspiring others to be enthusiastic and motivated. Leaders will also persuade others and encourage team work through effort and commitment. They look for ways to build relationships and balance the teams. They also often function as a counselor, coach, teacher or mentor by giving individuals freedom to learn and grow and by setting expectations through their own behavior. Leaders are also able to listen effectively in order to get to the root cause of problems quickly.[ix]