Is there a difference between leadership and management? Some of you may agree that you “lead” people and “manage” things. Or is leading and managing a dynamic and symbiotic relationship?
Admiral Grace Hopper coined the phrase, “You manage things; you lead people.” a military background tried and tested that phrase.
This article looks at the differences between Leading and Managing. As with my other articles, it should give you pause for thought. Are you a leader, or are you a manager? As you read on, you will probably understand that some managers have a propensity to believe they are leaders.
In the realm of business and company dynamics, the terms “leading” and “managing” are often used in the same context. However, despite their apparent similarity, leadership and management are distinct concepts with unique roles and implications. While both functions are essential for effective leadership, understanding the differences between leading and managing can greatly enhance one’s ability to guide teams and achieve organisational success.
This article aims to shed light on the aspects of leading and managing, highlighting their respective roles, approaches, and impact on the overall functioning of a team or company.
Leading is the art of influencing and inspiring others to voluntarily pursue a common vision or goal. It involves setting direction, motivating individuals, and aligning their efforts toward a shared objective. Leaders are visionaries who guide and inspire their teams through effective communication, fostering innovation, and promoting a positive work culture.
Leadership emphasises the “big picture” and long-term vision. Leaders focus on strategic thinking, envisioning the future, and inspiring others to share and work towards a common goal. They are responsible for defining the organisation’s purpose, values, and direction. Leaders are passionate about empowering their team members, fostering growth, and cultivating a culture of innovation and collaboration.
Conversely, managing entails organising and coordinating resources, processes, and people to achieve predetermined objectives. Managers focus on planning, organising, and controlling day-to-day operations, ensuring that tasks are completed efficiently and goals are met. They provide structure, assign responsibilities, monitor progress, and make decisions to keep the team or organisation on track.
Management concentrates on the “here and now.” Managers are concerned with day-to-day operations, ensuring that tasks are completed, deadlines are met, and resources are utilised efficiently. They are accountable for allocating resources effectively, creating schedules, coordinating activities, and maintaining productivity. Managers prioritise stability, adherence to policies and procedures, and operational efficiency.
- Systems, Processes, and Technology
- Goals, Standards, and Measurements.
- Strategic Planning
- A way of doing.
- Responding and reacting.
- Continuous improvement of “What is”.
- People – Context and Culture
- Preferred future, principles and purpose
- Strategic opportunism
- A way of being
- Initiating and originating
- Innovative thinking of “What could be”
Futurist Joel Barker provides another helpful distinction between the two roles; “managers manage within paradigms, leaders lead between paradigms.” both are needed. Trying to run an organisation with only leadership or management is like cutting a page with half a pair of scissors. Leadership and management are a matched set; both are needed to be effective.
Approach to People
Leaders focus on people and understand that their success hinges on the growth and development of individuals within their team. They inspire and motivate employees, encouraging engagement, creativity, and personal development. Leaders foster trust, promote open communication, and value the diverse perspectives and skills of team members. They create a positive work environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, and employee engagement.
Managers generally deal with the operational aspects of people management, they assign tasks, monitor performance, provide reporting, and ensure employees adhere to policies and procedures. Managers prioritise efficiency, consistency, and the achievement of predetermined targets. They may engage in employee development. Their primary focus is on achieving objectives. Whilst maintaining productivity within defined goals.
Many companies that suffer incredibly bad morale, poor engagement and attrition will find that they treat people as “Human Resources” to be managed.
Impact on Organisational Culture
Effective leadership has a profound impact on shaping a company’s culture, overall mindset, values, and behaviour. Leaders inspire and empower employees through their vision, enthusiasm, and ability to communicate, developing a culture of trust, transparency, and innovation. A strong leadership presence encourages creativity, adaptability, and a willingness to embrace change.
Management practices contribute to the development of an organisation’s operational culture. Managers establish processes, guidelines, and rules that promote consistency, efficiency, and compliance. They ensure that employees understand their roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations. A strong management structure fosters stability, accountability, and order within the organisation.
Leading and Managing are functions that aid the success of an organisation, albeit in different ways. While leaders provide the vision, inspiration, and direction, managers focus on planning, organising, and controlling the operational aspects. Effective leaders understand the importance of managing, while successful managers recognise the significance of Leadership. Balancing these two roles is crucial for building a harmonious work environment. Encourages strategic thinking, operational efficiency, employee engagement, and innovation, ultimately driving organisational success.
Most people do not want to work for a manager, let alone a bad manager. We enjoy working for a leader (a real one). Managers will focus on the systems, process and technology that comes along and as above, to manage is to control, handle or manipulate, which none of us enjoy. Leading is to guide, influence and persuade.