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Management vs leadership

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You’d be forgiven for thinking that a Manager is the same as a Leader. After all, a Manager is the leader of a team, right? While these terms are often used interchangeably, they actually have very different definitions...

“The difference between managers and leaders lies in the conceptions they hold, deep in their psyches, of chaos and order.” - Abraham Zaleznik

You can’t exactly argue with a Harvard Business School Professor, can you? How about two?

John Kotter, is a leading authority on the subject of management vs leadership, and defines the terms as:

Management - a systematic way of making people and technology work proficiently.

Leadership - creating those systems and looking for opportunities to improve.

In other words, management is the action of planning, while leadership is the creation of vision and strategy. And your organisation needs both in order to succeed.

You need good leaders to inspire people and communicate your organisation’s mission and vision. You also need good managers to implement action plans and ensure that things are getting done. But in order for both sides to understand their role and to achieve excellence in doing it, they first need to understand the differences between them.

1. Leaders define their vision, Managers follow it

Leaders are visionaries. Entrepreneurs. Disruptive thinkers and innovators. They know where they want to go and what they want to achieve. And when you’ve got a leader who’s founded a business, they’ll also have a clear picture of how they want their organisation to grow and where they want it to be in the future. But a good leader also knows that they can’t achieve their vision alone.

While leaders are responsible for effectively communicating their purpose, vision and goals to their organisation, it’s up to managers to ensure that employees are aligned with those goals. Managers also have a vital role to play in communication throughout a business, by influencing employees and empowering teams to do their best work.

2. Leaders shape culture, Managers endorse it

    Culture is more than just a corporate buzzword; it’s crucial to the success and overall health of a business and its people. Your culture is what defines and differentiates you. It lives and breathes in your people and your processes - everything from the way you communicate to the way you structure your company. And it all starts at the top.

    Culture is expressed through leadership, and is reflected in the attitudes of others as a result. So it’s up to leaders to drive and shape the culture of an organisation. But it’s also up to managers to lead employees to live up to that culture.

    A manager’s role is to work in collaboration with leaders to demonstrate the organisation’s core values and behaviours. They endorse your culture and work to empower your team members to do the same.

    3. Leaders generate ideas, Managers implement them

      Another aspect of leadership is the drive to grow and develop...that forward-thinking mindset. Leaders are always looking for opportunities for improvement, by generating new and innovative ideas.

      It goes back to John Kotter’s definitions - while a leader is thinking about the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, a manager is more grounded, thinking about the crucial ‘how’ The two compliment each other and work in sync to achieve a common goal.

      A manager will implement their leader’s ideas and create an action plan to fulfil their vision. They will ensure they have the right team for the job. They will provide their team members with the right information and processes to set them up for success. They will have a step-by-step plan in place to make sure the operation is running effectively.

      A manager will focus on the specifics of what’s going on around them, while a leader will focus on the big picture and new possibilities.

      4. Leaders inspire people, Managers drive success

        “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” - Sheryl Sandberg

        A great leader inspires people, but a great manager sets people up for success and continuously drives that success throughout their career.

        A manager actually holds a great deal of power when it comes to employee engagement. They have a huge influence over the productivity and performance of their team. But if that team isn’t inspired by their leader and the vision they have for the organisation, the manager will be fighting an uphill battle to get the best from them.

        So again, it’s about collaboration. There’s a real overlap between leadership and management to empower employees and generate engagement and motivation.

        5. Leaders look to the future, Managers work in the present

          One of the biggest differences between a leader and a manager is that leaders are much more focused on the future of the organisation, while managers will work in the present.

          A manager will work to achieve their organisation’s goals by implementing processes and procedures, analysing performance, delegating tasks and projects, generating reports, etc. In comparison, a leader will keep an eye on the horizon, focusing on the future and the opportunities it holds.

          A leader has a clear purpose, but it means nothing if there’s no clear path to achieving that purpose.

          Although the roles of leadership and management vary, they work side by side. They overlap. They must collaborate in order to succeed.

          Would you consider yourself a manager or a leader? Do these functions overlap in your business? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Connect with me via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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