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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 November 11, 2019

    How to Find Your Keystone Habits to Change Your Life

    How to Find Your Keystone Habits to Change Your Life

    When a young CEO stepped in at the helm of a dying giant, his first task was to figure out what needed to be done to save the company. After he spent some time researching the company and the market situation, he came up with a simple plan which he introduced to the shareholders in his first speech as the CEO.

    He spoke just about one single thing–safety. Everyone in the room thought he was crazy and some people jumped the soon-to-be-dead ship.

    15 years later, he not salvaged the giant, but made it one of the strongest steel and metal companies in the world and made a global name of himself.

    The company is Alcoa and the guy was Paul O’Neill.

    But the story matters to us for one thing only and that is the relentless focus he had on safety and security in his company. Paul O’Neill said that his employees deserve to leave work the same way they arrived at it–unharmed.

    And it was this radical focus on a single habit in the company that made it great. A single focus on a single habit which had a massive ripple effect.

    This is known as a keystone habit.

    The Importance of a Keystone Habit

    A keystone habit is a habit which has the biggest ripple effect in your life which means that by implementing it, you will radically change everything in your life.

    It’s quite easy to spot the keystone habits which make your life miserable.

    Take overeating as an example. If you weigh 400 pounds, you’re bedridden and your physical health massively declines. You can’t function individually so you need help to even do the basic things like going to the toilet or walking up the stairs. Since you can’t move, you can’t go to your job so you probably lose it. And since you can’t move, you can’t go out and meet someone so your dating and social life decline as well. And as a formerly overweight person, I know how this sucks.

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    This is just one example of how a keystone habit creates a ripple effect which creates change in every sphere of our lives. So we better open our eyes and make sure that we use the power of the keystone habits for bettering our life.

    Why Less Is More

    A keystone habit is about one thing and, the one thing only which you do to radically improve your life. And a lot of people would, at this point, ask what are the best keystone habits to implement in their lives.

    And here is the big truth: Nobody knows and nobody can tell you exactly.

    Everyone is specific and has different things going on for them in their lives, so claiming something is always superior to something else would simply be irresponsible.

    So even though I can’t tell you what to see, I can tell you where to look.

    Every keystone habit can be situated into one of the following four quadrants:

    It’s either a physical habit, intellectual habit, emotional habit or a spiritual habit.

    Any keystone habit I ever encountered which changed the life of someone falls under these 4 categories.

    And the trick is recognizing what kind of habit right would benefit your life the best at this moment. Asking what the best keystone habit has the same effect as asking what the best book in the world is– it depends on who you ask and what your current life situation is.

    If you’re struggling with the meaning of life and want to find hope in this crazy world we live in, I would point you to a great book which recently came out called Everything is F*cked by Mark Mason. If you were a struggling parent of a 10-year old kid who just found out the perils of the internet, I would point you to a security app.

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    You get the point…

    But just because everything is relative, it doesn’t mean that some things aren’t better than other things. War and Peace will always be a great book no matter if it currently befits you to read it. And the same thing can be applied to keystone habits so let’s see what kind of keystone habits fall into the great category.

    Great Keystone Habits

    I have already mentioned how all keystone habits fall into one of the four categories: physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. So the following keystone habits will fall into one (or more) of these buckets.

    But before we proceed into the habits, know this.

    What got you here, won’t get you there.

    So if you already have a keystone habit which you implemented for quite a while now and you think it’s no longer working, you are probably right. We need certain things at certain times of development, but we need to let them go later on to grow to new levels. So use the habits to better your life, but don’t worship any one of them for your entire life.

    Physical Domain

    When it comes to great keystone habits in the physical domain, they all fall into two buckets:

    • Exercise
    • Food

    These two are the pinnacle of the physical domain when it comes to keystone habits. I don’t even have to tell you all the ways exercise helps you in your life.

    From better hormonal regulation, to energy levels, to looking better, to feeling more confident, to increasing your lifespan and the quality of your life, a keystone habit of exercising is one whose effects you will feel fast.

    When it comes to food, it’s literally the building block of your life’s energy. If you eat garbage, you will feel like garbage–garbage in, garbage out. And your energy levels are one of the most important factors you need to regulate in your life if you want to achieve anything.

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    None of your dreams will ever come true if you eat a massive bag of chips every single day, which makes you drowsy and lifeless no matter how much ambition you have.

    But the physical domain is just one of the four domains so let’s jump to the next one.

    Intellectual Domain

    There are many great intellectual keystone habits we can pursue, but I will just name a couple of them which most of you who read the article will find relevant:

    • Reading Books
    • Writing (columns, articles, personal blog or diary)
    • Learning new languages
    • Learning a new skill set (copywriting, coaching, cooking…)
    • Teaching your skillset or your life experiences

    All of these have their own benefits and can massively improve your life and the life of people around you. When you, for example, learn a new language, you don’t just learn a new language, you learn a completely new way of thinking and form unique connections in your mind.

    But we don’t stop here, we have two more domains to cover.

    Emotional Domain

    This is a difficult one because, for one, it’s really hard to measure it in any quantitive way. You can’t just call your wife every single day and think that by doing just that, you are a good husband. It doesn’t work like that.

    I wrote about the problems of measuring emotional habits before and I won’t go in-depth about it here, but I will just mention that measuring these kinds of habits requires your and yours only subjective analyses. It’s like giving yourself a daily score of 1-10 on the question of “Did I do my best to be a great husband today?”

    The keystone habits of the emotional domain are one of the most complex and difficult ones to pull off because they require most people to change things they do in relation to other people.

    If you want to be more sincere and honest in your emotional responses, that means that you will have to make some people angry by doing that. It can be a difficult conversation you need to have with your spouse or with your friends, maybe a disagreement with your peers and colleagues, or a deep look within yourself with an honest look about your actions and mistakes.

    Emotional domain keystone habits improve your life in any stage, but since they make us do uncomfortable things, they are the last ones we pursue.

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    Some of the examples would be:

    • Telling yourself that you are the only one who is responsible for your emotions and keeping that standard
    • Calling out passive-aggressive in people
    • Speaking your mind even though you know it will bring disagreement
    • Dealing with your own problems first before pointing fingers
    • Asking for feedback constantly, both positive and negative ones
    • Deciding to be vulnerable even though it means risking being hurt

    The things I wrote above are probably the most difficult things you can ask someone to do, but they are also the most rewarding things you can do in your life. If you want to achieve greatness, you need to be willing to dare greatly.

    And last, but not least, are the keystone habits of the spiritual domain.

    Spiritual Domain

    The keystone habits of the spiritual domain are our connection with things which in our lives that have a higher purpose than just ourselves. This is the place where feel the connection with our communities, with Higher Beings, with God or Emptiness or whatever you want to call it.

    The spiritual domain is the strongest as a guiding force in life and some of the keystone habits of this domain include:

    • Finding your life’s purpose
    • Living your vision of life
    • Sacrificing yourself for the achievement of something bigger than you
    • Nurturing your inner voice and connection with the Spirit

    To some readers, this might seem like woo-woo, but I can assure that it isn’t. This is about the spiritual dimension of every individual and if you disregard it, you will annulate a part of you which will become a problem.

    The Western world currently faces a major spiritual crisis where people feel disconnected with anything in their lives which has a higher purpose than themselves. That’s why people are miserable even though they lead an “objectively” rich life where they appear to have everything but still feel like happiness is not in their lives.

    If you read all the way up to here, you found at least one keystone habit which can help you right now in your life.

    All that is left now is to implement it. As the famous adage goes:

    “Knowing and not doing is the same as not knowing.”

    Now you know, it’s time to do.

    More About Habits

    Featured photo credit: Bram Naus via unsplash.com

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