What is the difference between leadership and management?

Leadership is the action of moving, motivating, inspiring, encouraging, and leading a person or a team towards a common goal or vision. Management still aims for a goal to be achieved, but it is done in a more controlled and measured way. The focus is on planning and organising resources to get desired output.

Keeping this in mind, there are a number of key elements which separate a leadership and management approach within the workplace and with a team.

What are the differences between leadership and management?

Managers and leaders will likely encounter the same issues as each other, and will wear multiple hats and may need to switch between the two.

A lot of the difference between leadership and management is in the way they approach these issues. For example:

  • Communication: management concerns itself with instructing employees and creating clear guidelines and expectations; leadership is focused on encouraging employees to do their best and achieve outcomes, rather than telling them exactly how to do it.
  • Growth: leadership will challenge the status quo to overcome the risk of stagnation, will try new things and encourage new ideas and taking risks in order to achieve growth. Whilst management is also interested in and committed to organisational growth, especially if their targets are aligned to a percentage increase, they do so by following guidelines and procedures already in place.
  • Inspiration: there is less room for creativity and new ideas within the management approach and it is generally more focused on task assignment and completion. However improvement, forward-thinking, new ideas and encouraging out of the box thinking is a key attribute of leadership.
  • Mission: management is focused on clear goals and outcomes that need to be achieved, for example financial or growth targets, and their job is to keep things running efficiently and effectively. Leadership is focused on empowering the team to keep moving towards an overall vision.
  • Vision: leadership is more about creating and inspiring a vision and future path and direction for a team and organisation, whereas management is focused on executing the daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly tasks required to achieve that vision.
  • People Management: management is primarily focused on ensuring the quality and quantity of human resources is sufficient to achieve organisational goals and objectives and leadership focuses on the leading, motivating, and inspiring of those human resources.
  • Project Management and Achieving Objectives: management ultimately uses authority to ensure rules, standards, and procedures are being followed, and outcomes and tasks are being achieved. Leadership is still concerned with achieving outcomes, however they do this in a way where they encourage looking at the big picture and future vision.

What are the key elements that separate these two styles?

The main difference between leadership and management is that leadership focuses on people following them, whereas management is focused on people working for them and achieving the results they require.

Leadership is about:

  • Creating value rather than counting value
  • Influencing rather than power
  • Motivating and inspiring rather than controlling or relying on power and status
  • Innovating rather than organising
  • Forward-thinking rather than maintaining the status quo

Which approach is best for leading a team?

A company and a team need both leadership and management; it is about finding balance and the right approach for the task or situation at hand. The best people in your organisation will know when and how to apply each approach, and to what extent.

The two are even complementary. Organisations need a strong leader to create a vision, get employees to believe in and follow that vision, and motivate and inspire them to work towards it, but they also need managers who ensure that the jobs and tasks which employees need to do to achieve a leader’s vision are being executed. They make sure that goals and benchmarks are being met along the way.

You are more likely to use a leadership approach when you have a strong company culture built on trust and respect, team members are dedicated to the company and know their roles and responsibilities well, and when you want to encourage innovation and creativity.

A management approach is useful when you have new team members, performance needs to improve, and you need to ensure key outputs and goals are being achieved.

If you would like to discuss how to fill your team with candidates capable of both leadership and management skills, contact us today to hear how we can help.