Management and leadership seem similar, but they have very different purposes and require different skill sets. Management focuses on process and efficiency, and managers are primarily responsible for allocating resources such as money and employees. In comparison, leaders are concerned with strategy and vision, and they work hard to motivate and develop employees.
In a keynote presentation to Harvard Business School, professor Nancy Koehn called leadership:
“… the creation of positive, non-incremental change, including the creation of a vision to guide that change—a strategy—the empowerment of people to make the vision happen despite obstacles, and the creation of a coalition of energy and momentum that can move that change forward.”
Her co-presenter, Joe Fuller, described management this way:
“Management is getting the confused, misguided, unmotivated, and misdirected to accomplish a common purpose on a regular, recurring basis.”
To compare the two, Fuller said: “I think the ultimate intersection between leadership and management is an appreciation for what motivates and causes individuals to behave the way they do, and the ability to draw out the best of them with a purpose in mind.”
A Key Difference
Liz Ryan, a contributor to Forbes, describes several ways that leadership and management differ. One of the most significant distinctions between the two is that managers coordinate employee activity, while leaders need to focus on building trust in the workplace. That requires learning that works in both directions, she said.
“When your Team Mojo level is right, you will learn from your teammates, they will learn from you and all of you will learn from one another,” she said. “If the manager is always the subject matter expert, too, then something in your environment is out of whack. That’s a waste of incredible life experience, insight and perspective that only a group of switched-on collaborators can bring to bear on your organization’s challenges.”
The Need for Leaders
While managers and leaders are highly desired by organizations, recent research shows that business leaders are very concerned with finding and developing new leaders. The 2021 DDI Global Research Forecast said companies can only fill 47% of their open leadership roles, and 55% of CEOs believe developing the next generation of leaders is their top challenge.
What Questions do Leaders and Managers Ask?
If you’re in a leadership role, you’ll probably find yourself asking questions like these:
- How do I empower my employees to do their best work?
- How do I promote teamwork?
- What do employees need to grow in their careers?
In a management role, these kinds of questions might be more commonplace:
- What is the budget for this project?
- How many people do I need?
- What process should we follow?
- What technology should we use?
- What is the return on investment?
What Do Leadership and Management Have in Common?
While it’s easy to point out the differences between leadership and management, it’s also essential to recognize how they complement each other.
Good managers and leaders will:
- Use influence
- Work with people
- Communicate clearly
- Set timely and achievable goals
- Pay attention to detail
Look to your team to determine if how well you’re balancing your management and leadership skills. According to an Indeed career article:
“If you find that your team respects what you have to say and looks to you for guidance and support, then you are likely a manager who is also a leader. If you find that your team simply follows your orders because they have to, then you might want to work on further developing your leadership skills.”