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What is the Difference Between Leadership and Management?

leadership and management

Leadership and Management – What’s the Difference?

Attempting to make sense of the leadership-versus-management paradox can be challenging, given the way in which many people have to be both. The two concepts certainly go hand in hand, but this doesn’t for one moment mean that they are one and the same. Far from it, in fact, but the more you try to separate the two, the more you begin to realise is extremely difficult to do so.

Impossible, perhaps.

A very basic definition of management is the process or combination of processes whereby people or things are controlled. Management occurs to steer things toward an intended outcome. By contrast, leadership is defined as leading people or a business toward goals and targets, while at the same time bolstering motivation, commitment and empowerment. As is pretty obvious to see, there’s apparently a big difference between the two – despite the fact that anyone could easily fit into both brackets.

An Ongoing Debate

Trying to draw a line between leadership and management is something that’s perplexed professionals and professors for generations. Nevertheless, a chap by the name of Warren Bennis published a book in 1989 called “On Becoming a Leader”, which explained the key differences between the two better than any publication before or since.

Spelling things out in plain and simple English, he rounded up the key difference as follows:

1.      While managers focus on administration, leaders are more concerned with innovation

2.      The job of the manager is to maintain, whereas a leader chases evolution

3.      Managers are often obsessed with the bottom line, while leaders reach for the stars

4.      Most managers are carbon copies of one another, while leaders are always unique

5.      Successful managers do things right, while leaders do the right thing

6.      The manager accepts things the way they are – leaders are game-changers

7.      Management is usually about focusing on the short-term – leaders look to the future

8.      When a manager is only interested in the ‘when’ and ‘how’, leaders ask ‘what’ and ‘why’

9.      A good manager is a reliable soldier, while leaders tend to be mavericks

10.   Management is a concept based around control, while leadership nurtures trust

11.   The manager concentrates on structure and systems – leaders concentrate on people

What Does It All Mean?

To look at this particular breakdown of differences, you’d be forgiven for getting the impression that leaders are ‘better’ than managers. In reality however, it’s really not quite as simple as that. They say that leaders have people follow them while managers have people who work for them, but again…not quite so black and white.

Why? Well, quite simply because if you have any intention of getting by these days, you need to combine both roles into one. There will always be times when achieving something specific represents a priority of the utmost importance, meaning you’ll need to manage things by the book to make sure it happens. Other times, you’ll figure out that the status quo just isn’t working for your business, so you’ll challenge it and make with the innovation.

The simple fact of the matter – there’s really no either/or when it comes to these kinds of roles, it’s both…end of story.

One-Dimensional Thinking

Regardless of whether you think that you yourself fit into one bracket more than the other, it’s important to be cautious. The reason being that if you lead too much without sufficiently regimented management, controls and standards in place, you run the risk of disciplinary issues and chaos crippling your company. At the other end of the scale, managing too much means running the risk of becoming a dictator, who’s both difficult to admire and never pushing the envelope.

Contrary to popular belief, not all managers make good leaders and not are all leaders necessarily make good managers. There are technical and characteristic differences between the two, making them very different positions. But as already mentioned, these days it’s not a case of being one or the other – you have to be both.

The only problem being that while anyone can be trained to become a manager, leadership is something that relies much more on character and personal traits. You can teach someone to delegate, but you can’t teach personality. You can train an employee to oversee a team, but you can’t teach them to be ambitious. And that’s precisely why some managers seem to rocket up the ranks in no time, while others make much slower progress.

Climbing the Ladder

While much of the journey to becoming a manager/leader takes place on-the-job, it is nonetheless a subject that can and should be studied in-depth. Making it up as you go along is one thing, but arming yourself with a strong theoretical foundation can help you pick up the skills, knowledge and confidence neededto give your career prospects a real boost.

You’ll need dedication, drive and determination to succeed – along with the leadership character traits money cannot by. Combined with a high-end course in business or people-management, it’s a recipe for success that’s not to be overlooked.

For more information, check out our management courses online, or get in touch with the Oxford Home Study centre team today.