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Leadership vs. Management: Understanding the Differences and Why They Matter

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

What is the difference between Leadership and Management, and why should I know the difference, much less care if there is one? Maybe this is only a question that I ask now that I am in the midst of my adult career where. I wish more people I worked with knew the difference and, more importantly, how to use that information to make my life easier. If you wish others in your life knew this, stay tuned...


 

When I was younger and just beginning the working chapter of my life, I would not have been able to tell you the difference, much less care if there was one. From my perspective, only two relationships mattered: employee and boss.


It wasn’t until I matured and experienced the differences between the two positions that I noticed the two roles. I noticed that some individuals were far superior to others in their ability to create programs and methods to track productivity and ensure the employees had all the resources required to accomplish their tasks. While on the other hand, there appeared to be others who were more talented in the area of human connection and could drive the employees to accomplish more with the given resources with their influence than if we were left to our own devices.

The visual example of "Moving the Block" can summarize the differences between these two roles. If you were to google this example, you would quickly be overwhelmed by the number of examples and images that outline this theory. Below you will see two approaches organizations use to accomplish their task.


Visual example between a Boss and a Leader
© infinitequality - http://www.redbubble.com/people/inevitable

At first glance, this image vandalizes the Boss and Praises the Leader. Even the color of the picture invites you to feel the heat and persecution of the Boss. Images of hard work and cruelty fill my mind.


While the Leader is draped in a fantastic blue setting inviting a relaxed environment, even when looking between the two images, this image seems to have me feeling like the load wouldn’t be challenging too challenging to move.


Given a choice between the two, I would choose the bottom cooler blue every time. What would be your choice?

 

Before villainizing the “Boss” or Manager, I want to highlight the “lane” in which these two individuals operate and why each role is needed for a smooth and successful operation.


A break down of key skills and attributes of the Leadership and Management skills used in the common workplace.
Balance chart: Leadership vs Management

With this basic chart, we can see that the two roles are not best used in isolation, as the recent images of labor would have you believe.


Instead, the best approach that should be used to guarantee the most favorable outcome is one where the leader is guiding their people and inspiring them to perform at their best.


While the leader inspires their people to use their resources to the best of their ability, the manager ensures the whole team has every resource required to succeed.

The two relationships are more like peanut butter and jelly when they are together. Sure, each ingredient is good when separated, but when used in perfect harmony...MAN, they pack a punch and are a classic for a reason.

 

I believe that the differences between a Manager and a Leader can be boiled down into 6 key points:


1: The most obvious: Leadership is the skill of guiding people through encouragement while painting an Optimistic future! While Management ensures the organization's activities are orderly and well-equipped.

A- Both skills are required, yet each skill cannot guarantee success based solely on its merits.


B- Being able to encourage individuals to work hard towards a brighter future is challenging. People, in nature, are comfort seekers. Given a chance, people will SETTLE for a guaranteed and comfortable future even if the future doesn't fit their perfect plan.


2: For Leaders to be successful, they require the trust of their people. Whereas management only requires information and obedience.

A- The act of gaining TRUST within your organization and on a personal scale is tricky. The best way I have heard it explained is by Dr. James Davis, a professor of strategic management and the chairman of the Management Department at Utah State University.



I've also written an article on Trust and the process of repairing it when it fractured.


3: Leadership is practicing the theoretical principle of Transformational Leadership, Management, on the other hand, only needs to ensure that rules and guidelines are being followed and that infractions are swiftly rectified when they occur.


4: Leadership requires Leaders to have higher foresight skills than managers.

A- Any time the human element is added to the equation, it is safe to say, things can get messy. As leaders, it is crucial to identify potential roadblocks and obstructions before they occur.


For example, if you have a deadline approaching and the employees working on this project will be affected by an outside source, in turn affecting their ability to give you their best continually, it is the Leaders responsibility to see this scenario coming and prepare his people for when or if this occurs.


While a Manager needs only to think in distances of 3 months, or “Quarterly,” maybe even in extreme cases Annually, there rarely comes a time where the average Manager is asked to project their scope to years and beyond. A great Leader is constantly zoomed into the future like a copilot reading a map, asking the driver to trust in their directions due to their larger perspective on the journey.


5: The two roles still have “lanes” in which they operate. Leadership is the “Heart” of the organization, while Management is the “Brain” of an organization.

A- People love complaining about a policy or management's decision and rally around their confusion about this change. Often you hear statements like “What are they thinking?” or “Don’t they know how this will affect us?” or my personal favorite, “I wish they would come down here so I could tell them how dumb this is!”.

All these statements have one thing in common, the individual making the change isn’t in the trenches next to those these changes affect. Instead, these individuals make calculated spreadsheet adjustments that lose their appeal on a tactical level.

If an organization experiences enough of these disconnects without a strong Leader acting as an envoy between Management and Employees…people will begin to seek employment where the “Heart” (Leader) is more active.

“People Quit People, they don’t quit jobs!”
- Anonymous

6: Leadership's purpose is to inspire change and growth, while Management is more adept at encouraging stability.

A- This may sound like a broken record at this point. However, it's essential to conclude the “Block” theory here.

When we look back at the Leader and the ground, it's easy to see the little changes in the terrain. The Leader’s job is to best position and inspire those in the trenches with them to best overcome these obstacles with the least amount of effort.

Once the Manager sees these changes and the effectiveness, it is their job to cement their actions in the form of best practices to ensure that future teams are best-taken care of, regardless of the availability or caliber of a Leader.

 

Until Next Time, Climb Together

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