The differences between leadership and management

There’s no question that leadership and management go hand-in-hand, and both are necessary for an organisation to run smoothly…but they are not the same

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on About Leaders

When leaders fall into the habit of managing more than leading, it can have disastrous consequences for employee morale and the success of an organisation in general. In the words of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.”

Understanding the difference between leading and managing is the first step to becoming an influential leader. So here are the key differences between leadership and management that you can use to help steer your efforts in the right direction.

Leaders innovate

One of the main tasks of a leader is coming up with new ideas. Leaders create the frameworks and workflows within which employees work.

Naturally, any new framework or workflow should be informed by what is happening within the organisation. Where are the biggest issues? Where do employees waste most of their time? These are all questions that must be answered by those in positions of leadership, supported by the knowledge of managers.

For example, a manager might notice that the accounting department is wasting a lot of time on invoices; they might acknowledge that this is a repetitive and time-consuming task, but it needs to be done. However, a leader would take this information and recognise that here is an opportunity for innovation. In this example, the leader could set up an automated invoice system that takes that bulk of work off the financial team’s desks.

In short, managers maintain the status quo, and ensure work is done on time, but leaders are always looking to innovate and increase efficiency. Both managers and leaders can play valuable roles in your organisation, and might even share overlapping duties, but leadership requires a more proactive mindset, especially when it comes to solving problems.

Leaders focus on people

Leaders are supposed to, well, lead. That means inspiring and empowering other people to do their best work. A good leader gathers people around a shared vision and motivates them based on a mutual desire to make that vision come true.

While motivators like money or work-life balance do help, the best employees are often those who are excited to see the organisation succeed because of their work. This isn’t achieved overnight, but a good leader knows how to make it happen.

One way to better engage with your employees is to encourage ideas and suggestions from all team members. Listening to, and implementing, their feedback can help employees feel connected to your vision and raise the stakes for them. Above all, communicate openly with your team. Be transparent about how their role plays into the big picture.

As a leader, you want to build a team that is proud to work with you by bringing on people who share your values. Appoint managers and supervisors who will be an extension of what you do and create a positive working environment.

Managers, on the other hand, should focus on maintaining existing systems and ensuring that things are running smoothly, day-to-day, making sure that people are following the systems correctly, and that everyone is doing their job.

A manager’s job focuses on controlling people and systems, while a leader’s job is creating systems and inspiring people.

Leaders plan for long-term vs. short-term goals

Keeping an eye on the prize, and looking further ahead than anyone else within an organisation, is a leader’s job. If they get stuck on short-term plans, they waste time and lose track of what is important.

Naturally, daily tasks are crucial to success but this is not what a leader should put all of their energy into. Your role as a leader is to set the course and build plans for the future, while a manager should stay firmly on the ground, making sure the short-term goals are met.

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