Leadership vs. Management

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Leading and managing – I often see and hear business owners and their staffs use these two words interchangeably, yet they are very different in extremely important ways.  While being a “manager” is quite often a formal job title with specific responsibilities and accountability, being a “leader” is not.  Here are some of the key differences between Leading and Managing.

The first difference is that Leadership is really a way of thinking and behaving, while Management is a set of roles and responsibilities and the corresponding actions or to-dos.  Literally anyone can be a leader, exhibit leadership qualities, and create/support a positive work environment and help others see the way forward.  Leaders create and share vision and culture. To be a manager you need specific duties assigned to you, and resources assigned for you to manage in the accomplishment of specific work items.

The second key difference is the time frames that Managers and Leaders operate in.  Managers, in general, are focused on yesterday’s results and how to improve them today.  The focus is on executing the plan well and avoiding yesterday’s mistakes while not making new ones today.  Managers are schedule focused, which are typically (but not always) short-medium term in nature.  Managers guide the team’s movements from task to task in the proper order.  Leaders on the other hand spend more of their time focusing on how to move the team/organization from where it is today, to where it needs to be well into the future.  Leaders frame today’s challenges in terms of how they might impact us far into the future, not just today and tomorrow.

The third key difference is what I call context.  The context of a Manager is the set of resources – people, finances, equipment – assigned to them and the specific outcomes they are tasked with achieving by a specific date.  The Manager’s context is typically very well defined and measurable.  The context of a Leader is Vision, Mission, and Values, which make up the core of why people wish to follow them.  Leaders enroll the team in the Vision and inspire them to want to be and do more by creating a culture and work environment that fosters success.

Leadership and Management are both critical to the success of your business, be sure you and your team are enhancing your skillsets in both areas.

Author: Mark McNulty, Business Coach in Louisville, KY


Leadership vs. Management