The Difference Between Management and Leadership

women leaders


Jan. 16 2015, Published 2:00 a.m. ET

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Does being a good leader make you a good manager? What is the difference between management and leadership?

Despite how these words are often used interchangeably, manager and leader are two completely different roles.

The key difference between a manager and a leader, is that managers oversee subordinates and the completion of tasks while leaders sell a vision and motivate the team to achieve a goal. Management is based on the authority of a position. Leadership is based on one’s ability to influence and inspire, not a title.

Here are four ways to determine if you’re leading a team or managing subordinates:

Were you promoted by your boss or your peers?

Managers rely on their titles and authority to instruct employees and ensure they do as the manager says. Because managers were promoted from above, not below, there is no guarantee they will receive the respect and support of their subordinates. Leaders on the contrary, are “promoted” by those in the company who choose to follow them without being paid or told to do so. It’s because of this that leaders will have a greater circle of influence compared to managers.

To see which category you fall into, count the number of people outside of your reporting hierarchy structure who come to you for advice. The more people that seek and value your insights suggests you’re perceived as a leader.

Are you a visionary or task-oriented?

It’s an oversimplification to say that leaders are big thinkers while managers are just taskmasters. Leaders primarily focus on the overall vision and direction of a company, and allow their team to plan the details and strategy to achieve those goals. Managers tend to be more task-oriented. They focus on producing immediate deliverables and hitting short-term goals.

While a vision drives the mission of the company, it is equally important to successfully execute that vision.

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What’s more important building your employees’ character or skills?

As managers are task-oriented and driven to achieve the company’s short-term goals they look to enhance their subordinate’s performance through skill building. They are more inclined to develop their employee’s work-related skills through trainings or workshops. Leaders, on the other hand, focus less on the immediate tasks in front of them and seek out potential. They ask the question, how can this person grow and impact the company in the future? As a result, their training philosophy centers around character building.

Are you able to trust or need full control?

Leaders set the vision and direction for the group, and trust their followers to execute the plans and outline the objectives necessary to move towards that direction. The leader’s high level of trust allows employees to freely make decisions on day-to-day operations. Conversely, managers look to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, and therefore, they give subordinates detailed instructions to adhere to. They seek control over subordinates to achieve optimal results.

There are clear differences between management and leadership, and if there was a spectrum, on one extreme you could be a great leader and on the other a great manager. I believe that most people in leadership positions fall somewhere in the middle, acting as both a manager and leader, depending on the given circumstance or challenge.

Do you think you were born to lead or are you more management material? Let us know in the comments here, on Facebook, or tweet us @HerAgenda.

Photo credit: UMWomen / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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