What is the Difference Between Management and Leadership?

Joseph Stubblebine
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For managers, management and leadership are both crucial skills. The two concepts are frequently understood to mean the same thing, an unfortunate mistake that leads to a breakdown in team dynamics. By understanding the place for each skill, both within your organization and your team, you can develop a stronger and more influential managerial style.

The major differences between management and leadership are simple. A manager supervises employees, ensuring that they have the information they need, and finds ways to increase productivity. The manager controls and directs the people on a team to meet specific goals. A manager has subordinate employees who listen and obey because of an organizational hierarchy.

A leader sets a new course or direction for a team. She serves as an inspiration and an example. Leaders have followers, people who choose to pay attention, give respect and work to achieve the same goals. According to Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, "Managers tell people what to do. Leaders inspire them to it."

Although management and leadership are closely related, they do not always come as a package. A good leader may not be a good manager if she does not pay attention to the overall vision and end goals of the organization. Without a solid plan and the organizational skills to execute it, an excellent leader can be ineffective as a manager. Likewise, an effective manager may not be a good leader if she forces her team to perform via threats and negativity.

For professionals in modern leadership roles, risk is a crucial consideration. A leader naturally embraces risk, understanding that the reward is often worthwhile. Because a manager has additional practical factors to consider, she must allow enough risk to give team members freedom to develop and perform, but not so much that it causes financial ruin.

Value creation is another balancing act for professionals in management and leadership positions. Strong leaders are focused almost entirely on creating value. Managers have other responsibilities to divide their attention. To be effective in leadership roles, managers must learn to execute their organizational duties without micromanaging or infringing upon the value-creating abilities of their team. If a worker is expected to report on progress too frequently, for example, it sabotages his productivity.

At one point, management and leadership were considered separate skills. A person who managed a factory line during the Industrial Age was likely more concerned with productivity than inspiration. In modern society, however, managers are expected to double as leaders. The most powerful managers know how to combine management and leadership skills to get the best from their team. A strong manager creates the perfect balance, serving as both an inspiration and a supervisor. She leads by example, demonstrating the correct path and inspiring her team to grow. She creates the systems that allow productivity and steps back to allow her team to work effectively. Most importantly, she does not allow either role to overpower the other.

Walking the line between management and leadership can be tricky, particularly for younger professionals. By striking a balance that works for you, your team and your company, you create a more positive and dynamic work environment.


(Photo courtesy of Ambro / freedigitalphotos.net)


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