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Leadership vs Management: Is One Better Than the Other?

Leadership vs Management: Is One Better Than the Other?

Being an excellent manager doesn’t make someone a strong leader. We’ve all run into someone who uses the titles interchangeably, and it can be frustrating.

Knowing the difference leadership vs management helps you understand your role in your organization. By recognizing the difference, you can sharpen your abilities so that you can reach your fullest potential. Knowing what separates managers and leaders can also help you figure out how to achieve the best balance of leadership and management qualities.

In this article, I will explore the similarities and differences between leaders and managers, and help you figure out how to get the best of both worlds.

What are leadership and management?

What is leadership?

A leader’s power comes from their ability to get buy-in from others. They use their influence to challenge norms and guide innovation. As Drucker implies, leaders sometimes bend the rules to spur change. Peter Drucker aptly puts it:[1]

“The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers. To gain followers requires influence but doesn’t exclude the lack of integrity in achieving this.”

What is management?

Managers ensure that employees conform to standards and adhere to policies. They make sure that the goals of their leaders are carried out. They are capable and responsible, but their contribution to organizations is strictly by-the book.[2]

Managers are the people to whom this management task is assigned, and it is generally thought that they achieve the desired goals through the key functions of planning and budgeting, organizing and staffing, problem solving and controlling.

Leadership vs Management

Leadership and management have different characteristics and have different focuses. Here are 9 main differences between leadership and management illustrated with examples:

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    1. Focus on goals and vision vs. Focus on tasks

    Leaders are oriented toward their company’s vision and goals. They look at the big picture and come up with new ways to actualize their vision.[3] When leaders try new things, they always tie their ideas back to the company’s mission.

    Managers are task-masters. While they may care about an organization’s vision, their job is to stick to policy. Managers carry out the big ideas for their organization’s leaders.

    2. Sell it vs. Tell it

    Since leaders are always on the cusp of innovation, they have to convince others that their ideas are worthwhile. Remember, they gain their authority by encouraging others to buy into their line of thinking.

    On the other hand, managers don’t have to sell an idea because their role is to enforce policies. If someone steps out of line, they can fall back on procedures. Employees do as their managers tell them.

    3. Take risks vs. Minimize risks

    Anytime you try something new, you must take a risk. Leaders take risks by default because they often push for change.

    Managers are put in place to keep risks to a minimum. They make sure that workers are doing what they’re supposed to do in the manner the company tells them to. When problems arise, a manager may take the problem to leadership to amend policies.

    4. Encourage vs. Instruct

    The lines between management and leadership blur here depending on how the manager approaches their duties. Ultimately, leaders offer encouragement to employees to think outside the box and see the big picture.

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    Managers usually have clear guidelines about different aspects of their workplace. They may provide encouragement, but their main job is to tell you how things are supposed to be done. They’re the person you turn to when you want to figure out the best way to do your job.

    5. Go against the grain vs. Go with the flow

    Leaders need to challenge the status quo or else their organization risks stagnation.[4] They try new things to see if they can be more effective. They work to align company policies with the company’s vision.

    Managers, on the other hand, maintain the status quo. They’re doing their best work when they are enforcing the guidelines set out by the leaders.

    6. Motivate vs. Approve

    When you try new things, your risk of failing increases. Leaders must be motivated, and they’re great at keeping others motivated. They tie everything they do back to the company’s vision. When a company has a strong vision, a leader can use it as a rallying point for inspiring employees.

    When you’re managing people, your main objective is to decide if something passes muster. Managers look at their subordinates’ actions and determine whether they meet the standards set out by the company.

    7. Break the rules vs. Follow the rules

    Leaders have to play fast and loose with the rules to get ahead. Rules are often too rigid to allow for innovation, which means that leaders frequently bend them. When a company or organization is badly broken, leaders may disregard the rules entirely.

    If a manager wants to keep their job, they stick to the strategies set out by superiors. Bending and breaking the rules undermines their position, which can weaken the company.

    8. Inspire trust vs. Expect control

    When someone is guiding you through uncharted territory, you must have a certain level of trust in them. A strong leader is excellent at inspiring trust to take people to places they’ve never been.

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    Managers’ authority rests in their ability to have control outright. You don’t have to like or trust your manager to do what you’re told. Managers expect and need control to do their job well.

    9. Foster ideas vs. Assign tasks

    Leaders thrive on making improvements by trying new things. They foster new ideas and free thinking because this supports their aims. They know that if they can encourage more people to think outside the box, the collective brainpower of the group will drive more innovation.

    Managers can’t encourage free thinking because they wouldn’t be able to fulfill company expectations. Telling people what to do is the only way they can ensure that employees will do what they’re supposed to in the way they’re supposed to do it.

    Is leadership better than management (or vice versa)?

    As you may have noted, there are some stark differences between leaders and managers, but leadership and management are complementary. This video will explain to you why leadership and management go hand-in-hand:

    Leaders are risk-taking, innovating, game-changers. Managers are by-the-book maintainers of the status quo. That doesn’t mean that it’s better to be one or the other.

    Companies need managers and leaders to run smoothly. A lack of management puts organizations at risk for falling out of compliance and not meeting goals. A lack of leadership leads to a stagnant and uninspired workforce.

    Leaders and managers may exist at opposite ends of a spectrum when it comes to authority, but they’re on the same team. A leader can have a grand vision, but without managers to carry it out, the vision won’t be realized. Managers have to adhere to standards, but if they aren’t inspired by leadership, they won’t be able to share their vision with the workforce.

    Strike the balance between leadership and management

    There’s a happy medium between leadership and management. In some cases, you do need someone to perform as strictly one or the other. The best authority figures know when to apply leadership and management to greater and lesser degrees.

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    When to use leadership skills

    The degree to which you’re able to use leadership skills depends on your workforce and your company’s way of operating. If your members are clear about the team’s vision and goals, they’re more likely to be inspired by a leader.

    For an authority figure to lean more toward leadership, they need to be able to trust that workers are already fully aware of and compliant with company policies. If you constantly have to babysit your team members to perform basic tasks, it’s going to be difficult to encourage free thinking.

    When a team is made up of dedicated individuals who understand their roles, you have more leeway. They’ll be able to handle innovation and creativity while keeping up with their responsibilities. When a leader can enter into a dialogue with workers about company policies, they can come up with new ideas together.

    When to take on the role of a manager

    When you’re new on the job, you need somebody to tell you how things should be done. Managers are an absolute necessity when your team members are new. They can help workers figure out how to do their jobs in the most efficient way possible.

    Managers are also excellent at figuring out how much employees are capable of. They know that giving them too many responsibilities can have a negative impact on their performance and morale. They safeguard employee productivity by understanding how each person works and responds to stress.

    Organizations always need managers to help employees with uncertainties that they may have about their work. The manager is the person who can show you where to find a procedure in the handbook. They take the mystery out of the work so that employees can meet company expectations.

    Organizations need managers and leaders to reach their full potential. You can’t have one without the other. Running a company made only of leaders would be like herding cats. Having managers run the show means that you’ll get a lot done, but you’ll never get better.

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

    What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

    Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Do you play the drums or do watercolor paintings? Perhaps compose songs or direct plays? Can you even relate to any of these so called ‘creative’ experiences? Growing up, did you ever have that ‘artistic’ sibling or friend who excelled in drawing, playing instruments or literature? And you maybe wondered why you can’t even compose a birthday card greeting–or that drawing stick figures is the furthest you’ll ever get to drawing a family portrait. Many people have this common assumption that creativity is an inborn talent; only a special group of people are inherently creative, and everyone else just unfortunately does not have that special ability. You either have that creative flair or instinct, or you don’t. But, this is far from the truth! So what is creativity?

    Can I Be Creative?

    The fact is, that everyone has an innate creative ability. Despite what most people may think, creativity is a skill that everyone can learn and hone on. It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input. How is that so? You’ll have to start by expanding your definition of creativity. Ironically, you have to be creative and ‘think out of the box’ with the definition! Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems. So, if you encounter different challenges and problems that need solving on a regular basis, then creativity is an invaluable skill to have.Let’s say, for example, that you work in sales. Having creativity will help you to look for new ways to approach and reach out to potential customers. Or perhaps you’re a teacher. In this role you have to constantly look for new ways to deliver your message and educate your students.

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    How Creativity Works

    Let me break another misconception about creativity, which is that it’s only used to create completely “new” or “original” things. Again, this is far from the truth. Because nothing is ever completely new or original. Everything, including works of art, doesn’t come from nothing. Everything derives from some sort of inspiration. That means that creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.From this perspective, you can see a lot of creativity in action. In technology, Apple combines traditional computers with design and aesthetics to create new ways to use digital products. In music, a musician may be inspired by various styles of music, instruments and rhythms to create an entirely new type of song. All of these examples are about connecting different ideas, finding common ground amongst the differences, and creating a completely new idea out of them.

    What Really Is Creativity?

    Creativity Needs an Intention

    Another misconception about the creative process is that you can just be in a general “creative” state. Real creativity isn’t about coming up with “eureka!” moments for random ideas. Instead, to be truly creative, you need to have a direction. You have to ask yourself this question: “What problem am I trying to solve?” Only by knowing the answer to this question can you start flexing your creativity muscles. Often times, the idea of creativity is associated with the ‘Right’ brain, with intuition and imagination. Hence a lot of focus is placed on the ‘Right’ brain when it comes to creativity. But, to get the most out of creativity, you need to utilize both sides of your brain–Right and Left–which means using the analytical and logical part of your brain, too. This may sound surprising to you, but creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. And, problem solving inherently involves logic and analysis. So instead of throwing out the ‘Left’ brain, full creativity needs them to work in unison. For example, when you’re looking for new ideas, your ‘Left’ brain will guide you to a place of focus, which is based on your objective behind the ideas you’re searching for. The ‘Right’ brain then guides you to gather and explore based on your current focus. And when you decide to try out these new ideas, your ‘Right’ brain will give you novel solutions outside of the ones you already know. Your ‘Left’ brain then helps you evaluate and tune the solutions to work better in practice. So, logic and creativity actually work hand in hand, and not one at the expense of the other.

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    Creativity Is a Skill

    At the end of the day, creativity is a skill. It’s not some innate or natural born talent that some have over others. What this means is that creativity and innovation can be practiced and improved upon systematically.A skill can be learned and practiced by applying your strongest learning styles. Want to know what your learning style is? Try this test. A skill can be measured and improved through a Feedback Loop, and can be continuously upgraded over time by regular practice. Through regular practice, your creativity goes through different stages of proficiency. This means that you can become more and more creative! If you never thought that creativity was relevant to you, or that you don’t have a knack for being creative… think again! You can use creativity in any aspect of your life. In fact you should use it, as it will allow you to to break through your usual loop, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you to grow and try new things. Creativity will definitely give you an edge when you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with new solutions.

    Start Connecting the Dots

    Excited to start honing your creativity? Here at Lifehack, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to help you get started. We understand that creativity is a matter of connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value. So, if you want to learn how to start connecting the dots, check out these tips:

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    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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