Leadership vs Management: Understanding The Key Difference

by | Oct 18, 2021 | Pandemic, Technologies | 0 comments

Many wonder about the differences between leadership and management. Are they mutually exclusive?

Do professionals have both qualities or do they learn one or the other over a long period of time? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg.

What is Leadership? What is Management?

The words “leader” and “manager” are among the most commonly used words in business and are often used interchangeably. But have you ever wondered what the terms actually mean?

What Do Managers Do?

A manager is a member of an organization with the responsibility of carrying out the four important functions of management: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. But are all managers leaders?

Most managers also tend to be leaders, but only IF they also adequately carry out the leadership responsibilities of management, which include communication, motivation, providing inspiration and guidance, and encouraging employees to rise to a higher level of productivity.

Unfortunately, not all managers are leaders. Some managers have poor leadership qualities, and employees follow orders from their managers because they are obligated to do so—not necessarily because they are influenced or inspired by the leader.

Managerial duties are usually a formal part of a job description; subordinates follow as a result of the professional title or designation. A manager’s chief focus is to meet organizational goals and objectives; they typically do not take much else into consideration. Managers are held responsible for their actions, as well as for the actions of their subordinates. With the title comes the authority and the privilege to promote, hire, fire, discipline, or reward employees based on their performance and behavior.

What Do Leaders Do?

The primary difference between management and leadership is that leaders don’t necessarily hold or occupy a management position. Simply put, a leader doesn’t have to be an authority figure in the organization; a leader can be anyone.

Unlike managers, leaders are followed because of their personality, behavior, and beliefs. A leader personally invests in tasks and projects and demonstrates a high level of passion for work. Leaders take a great deal of interest in the success of their followers, enabling them to reach their goals to satisfaction—these are not necessarily organizational goals.

There isn’t always tangible or formal power that a leader possesses over his followers. Temporary power is awarded to a leader and can be conditional based on the ability of the leader to continually inspire and motivate their followers.

Leader Vs Manager

Subordinates of a manager are required to obey orders while following is optional when it comes to leadership. Leadership works on inspiration and trust among employees; those who do wish to follow their leader may stop at any time. Generally, leaders are people who challenge the status quo. Leadership is change-savvy, visionary, agile, creative, and adaptive.

Below are four important traits of a manager:

The ability to execute a Vision – Managers build a strategic vision and break it down into a roadmap for their team to follow.

The ability to Direct – Managers are responsible for day-to-day efforts while reviewing necessary resources, and anticipating needs to make changes along the way.

Process Management – Managers have the authority to establish work rules, processes, standards, and operating procedures.

People Focused – Managers are known to look after and cater to the needs of the people they are responsible for: listening to them, involving them in certain key decisions, and accommodating reasonable requests for change to contribute to increased productivity.

What Are The Traits A Leader Possesses?

Traits of a Leader

Below are five important traits of a leader:

Vision – A leader knows where they stand, where they want to go and tend to involve the team in charting a future path and direction.
Honesty and Integrity

Leaders have people who believe them and walk by their side down the path the leader sets.

Inspiration – Leaders are usually inspirational—and help their team understand their own roles in a bigger context.

Communication Skills – Leaders always keep their team informed about what’s happening, both present and the future—along with any obstacles that stand in their way.

Ability to Challenge – Leaders are those that challenge the status quo. They have their style of doing things and problem-solving and are usually the ones who think outside the box.

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The Three Important Differences Between A Manager and A leader
Being a manager and a leader at the same time is a viable concept. But remember, just because someone is a phenomenal leader, it does not necessarily guarantee that the person will be an exceptional manager as well, and vice versa. So, what are the standout differences between the two roles?

A leader invents or innovates while a manager organizes

The leader of the team comes up with new ideas and kickstarts the organization’s shift or transition to a forward-thinking phase. A leader always has his or her eyes set on the horizon, developing new techniques and strategies for the organization. A leader has immense knowledge of all the current trends, advancements, and skillsets—and has a clarity of purpose and vision. By contrast, a manager is someone who generally only maintains what is already established. A manager needs to watch the bottom line while controlling employees and workflow in the organization and preventing any chaos.

In his book, The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide to Management: Lasting Lessons from the Best Leadership Minds of Our Time, Alan Murray cites that a manager is someone who “establishes appropriate targets and yardsticks, and analyzes, appraises and interprets performance.” Managers understand the people they work with and know which person is the best fit for a specific task.

A manager relies on control, whereas a leader inspires trust:

A leader is a person who pushes employees to do their best and knows how to set an appropriate pace and tempo for the rest of the group. Managers, on the other hand, are required by their job description to establish control over employees, which, in turn, helps them develop their assets to bring out their best. Thus, managers have to understand their subordinates well to do their job effectively.

A leader asks the questions “what” and “why”, whereas a manager leans more towards the questions “how” and “when”:

To be able to do justice to their role as a leader, some may question and challenge authority to modify or even reverse decisions that may not have the team’s best interests in mind. Good leadership requires a great deal of good judgment, especially when it comes to the ability to stand up to senior management over a point of concern or if there is an aspect in need of improvement. If a company goes through a rough patch, a leader will be the one who will stand up and ask the question: “What did we learn from this?”Managers, however, are not required to assess and analyze failures. Their job description emphasizes asking the questions “how” and “when,” which usually helps them make sure that plans are properly executed. They tend to accept the status quo exactly the way it is and do not attempt a change.

Leader Vs Manger

In the article Three Differences Between Managers And Leaders, Vineet Nayar discusses three tests he devised to help managers decide if they have successfully made the shift from managing people to leading them.

The Three Tests – Leader Vs Manager

Counting Value vs. Creating Value:

Managers are the only ones who count value, he says. There are some who cut down on the value by disabling or otherwise countering ideas and people who add value.

Leaders, however, focus instead on working to generate a certain value that is over and above that which the team creates—and is as much a creator of value as their followers. Nayar goes on to say that, “Leading by example and leading by enabling people are the hallmarks of action-based leadership.”

Circles of Influence vs. Circles of Power:

As mentioned previously, managers have subordinates and leaders gain followers, which implies that managers create a circle of power while leaders create a circle of influence. Nayar offers advice on how to identify which circle you have around you. He says, “The quickest way to figure out which of the two you’re doing is to count the number of people outside your reporting hierarchy who come to you for advice. The more that do, the more likely it is that you are perceived to be a leader.”

Leading People vs. Managing People:

One responsibility of a manager is controlling a group in order to accomplish a specific goal. Leadership, on the other hand, is the ability of an individual to motivate, influence, and enable other employees to make a contribution to the success of an organization. Inspiration and influence separate leaders from managers—not control and power.