In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes, “Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.” As the quote demonstrates, there’s a difference between leadership and management. While these two roles serve distinct purposes, companies need both leaders and managers to ensure productivity, experience sustainable growth, and increase their impact. Distinguishing and aligning these positions creates a work environment where leaders and managers fulfill the business’s vision.
So, what makes a leader? What makes a manager? How do they complement one another?
Below, find out how to tap into your full power to fulfill your company’s just cause by getting your leaders and managers in sync with each other. By the time you finish this article, you’ll be able to clearly distinguish between management and leadership, and the set of skills each job requires.
Table of Contents
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What is Management?
In highly structured companies, managers often serve as a liaison between upper-level executives and employees. Within “top-down” organizational structures, management largely involves communicating and implementing company strategy created by leaders. While leaders provide the organization’s vision, managers ensure this picture of the future becomes a reality. For instance, this is done by developing a plan for achieving the business’s goals. Similarly, managers are also responsible for delegating tasks. Additionally, they measure the team’s performance through KPIs and other target metrics.
Depending on the company, managers’ duties might include:
- Performance measurement
In essence, managers direct, plan, and monitor the business’s operations. On a team, they typically function as “the boss” with authority over the group. Their work usually includes implementing processes, assigning duties, and tracking success. Specific management responsibilities may vary with each company’s needs.
What is the Role of a Leader?
Overall, leaders take initiative by strategizing on how to achieve the organization’s vision. Whether problem-solving or setting the bar higher, their main objective is to create greater outcomes. According to best-selling author and leadership expert John C. Maxwell, leadership is positively influencing those around you, so much so, they want to follow you. “If you can’t influence people, then they will not follow you. And if people won’t follow, you are not a leader. That’s the Law of Influence,” he writes in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
Because of their influence on others, leaders naturally emerge. According to a study from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, scientists found leaders’ brains synchronize with their followers’ brains. In short, the researchers discovered this synchronization occurs when a person has elevated communication skills amongst their peers. Unlike managers who execute specific duties, those who lead do so by using relational skills. This helps them inspire and motivate employees toward achieving their vision.
Typically, great leaders:
- Provide vision
- Work on company strategy
- Communicate effectively
- Focus on the overall vision
- Build strong relationships
- Inspire others to action
- Lead with purpose
- Make thoughtful, efficient decisions
- Share their enthusiasm and passion
- Empower those around them
- Guide and encourage people toward success
What are the Core Differences Between Leadership and Management?
In 1977, Abraham Zaleznik argued in “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?” that there are stark differences between managers and leaders. In his foundational article for Harvard Business Review, he wrote one could find the core distinction in the way managers’ and leaders’ subconscious minds processed chaos and order. “Managers embrace process, seek stability and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly . . . Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure in order to understand the issues more fully.”
According to Zalenznik’s findings, leaders’ brains function more in line with creatives, while managers think in more rigid, formalized terms. While he believed that intrinsic differences exist between managers and leaders, he also upheld both as vital for an organization’s success.
Terina Allen for Forbes also helps distinguish the two in an easy-to-understand way: “We manage things such as programs, budgets, contracts, projects, and processes, but we should be leading people . . . ”
Businesses Need Both Leaders and Managers
When leaders and managers synergize, companies (and their people) thrive and grow into their full potential. Ultimately, these two components of businesses work together to visualize and achieve success. For example, leaders keep their eyes on the horizon and navigate the team’s direction by developing and communicating strategy. At the same time, managers ensure the group is on the ground moving toward the target ahead.
As described by consulting service Blue Streak Partners, the relationship between managers and leaders is important because: “Focusing exclusively on a distant vision without proper handling of current challenges will derail the organization’s ability to achieve that goal, but without the goal, the threat of aimless wandering is intensified.”
Both of these roles are vital to keeping a business productive, profitable, and progressing toward a greater future. Knowing the difference between leadership and management equips you to maximize your team’s abilities and effectively accomplish the company’s goals.
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