Leadership and Management: What’s the Big Difference?

Leadership and Management

Leadership and management. They’re pretty similar, right? Almost the same. In fact, you’ve probably used them interchangeably before. But while similar, there’s a few important differences that you need to be aware of as you progress in your career.


Why is it Important to Know the Difference Between Leadership and Management?

Despite some overlap between the two, leadership and management are two very different concepts. And knowing the difference can help your career in a few ways:

1. It Helps You Understand the Skills You Need to Learn to Progress in Your Career

Maybe you’re a fantastic manager. You keep your team organised and on track with projects, clients are always happy to work with you, and your own managers love your work. 

But you don’t want to stay a manager forever. The next step for you is into a leadership position, like Head of Engineering.

But the skills that made you a great manager, aren’t the same skills that would make you a great leader. For example, instead of having to drive the team’s work, you need to be able to inspire your team, and have them want to follow you. 


2. It Can Help You Understand Which Career Path is Right For You

Looking at your skills and which parts of your job you enjoy can help you decide which direction to go in your career. 

For example, if you love managing a team, driving success for clients and customers, then unsurprisingly, you might want to progress further into senior management. You’ll get to work with bigger teams, work on bigger projects, bigger technology, software, budgets….. The list goes on.

Or maybe you’ve got mountains of ideas about ways to improve your company: How to reduce inefficiency, improve the businesses offerings to customers or how to grow the business. Then you sound more like a leader, than a manager.

This is just one example out of many, but can help you decide whether leadership or management is right for you.


3. It Provides Clarity of What is Expected of You

If you’re just moving into a management position, it can be helpful to understand exactly what your employer will be expecting from you. Because it’s not always 100% clear.

Some qualities and actions that make a great leader are also the ones that make a great manager. But not all of them. Instead of spending your weekend away at a seminar on “strategic vision and leading a company”, you’d be better off reading up on “mentorship”, to more effectively manage your team.


What is Leadership?

Leadership is influencing people to follow you. It doesn’t magically happen when you reach a certain job title: It doesn’t stem from a position of authority. It comes from having people follow you, no matter your position. 

Of course this means that while you may have leadership qualities, you might not be a good manager. Just like being an effective manager, doesn’t mean people want to follow you.

A leader is someone who is focused on the future of the business. They may have a vision for their career, or the business and invest time and effort into accomplishing their vision. It’s being driven and having a vision that people want to follow that makes you a leader.

Some of the most useful traits for a leader are inspirational, driven, planning and strategy.


What is Management?

Managers and Management is more easily defined. And not just because of the title, “Manager”.

A good manager is someone who ensures a business or team is running smoothly, and their work and project deadlines are being met. Their work is focused on the present and the immediate future. The most useful skills for a manager are organisation, planning, and (shockingly) managing. 

A manager’s primary focus is on meeting the company’s goals. Managers are responsible for a team’s performance, and they will drive the team to meet these targets. While they can also be a good leader, this isn’t necessarily the case. Some managers aren’t necessarily leaders. In that case, people will follow a manager because of hierarchy, not necessarily because people want to follow them.


What are the Differences Between Leadership and Management?

So, that’s why it’s important to know the difference. But what are the differences that are so important?

Leaders Think in Ideas, Managers are Focused on Execution

Leaders think in “what and why”. They want to think of new ideas, what they could do and achieve: And why has something happened. Because they’re not afraid to challenge the authority on a subject and try to think of something new.

Meanwhile a manager is more focused on the “how and when”. How are we going to achieve this, and when does it need to be done? The managerial approach is much more pragmatic, and is focused on results, not innovation.


Leaders Inspire a Team, Managers Manage Them

Now this might be the most obvious difference between the two. But it’s also a pretty good summary of the issue.

As a leader, it’s your job to create a vision for the future of the company. You’ll need to lead the team to create this vision: Which can mean any combination of being strategic, charismatic, passionate, driven, and forward-thinking. 

Meanwhile, a Manager is responsible for managing the team and making sure that work is being completed on time, is up to scratch, and the team is happy. 


Leaders Have a Vision on the Company Culture, Managers Support This Vision

Company culture is incredibly important. In a study into company culture, over 50% of top executives said “company culture influences productivity, creativity, profitability, firm value and growth rates” It can have a huge effect on the business you work at and the employees that work there. But it doesn’t just happen on its own.

Company culture is often decided by the leaders within a business. They will have a vision for the business they are creating, and it starts with the people you hire.


“The company culture is the DNA of the business. When we founded Dynamic, we tried and tested culture in so many different ways. There are still improvements to make, there always are: But trial and error got us closer and closer to where we are now.”

Adam Law, Director of Dynamic Search Solutions


Leaders make decisions about the company culture and hire people who are a good fit for it. But managers are crucial to maintaining and upholding the company culture that leaders build. 

Managers lead employees in their day-to-day work, have a huge influence on their attitude to their work and job, and drive employees to live by the company culture and values of the business.


Bad Managers Cost Businesses Employees

Not every manager is a hiring manager, but almost every manager is responsible for employee retention. Managers have day-to-day interaction with the team, as well as power and responsibility over the members of the team. It’s their job to ensure that the team members are engaged with their work, and happy in their roles.

Leaders, by nature, inspire and lead employees. Managers meanwhile, have to work to do so. Unfortunately, bad managers can have the opposite effect: As the old saying goes, “employees don’t quit companies, they quit managers”. And while not true in every case, it often can be. A study from Gallup showed that managers could have had an impact on 75% of the reasons people leave.

So even when not directly responsible, managers can have a huge influence over people leaving the company.

Leaders can inspire people to want to be a part of their vision. This can have an impact on employee retention and hiring. But they aren’t always in a position to address an employee’s grievances that can cause an employee to leave. Senior leaders in a company are often focused on a larger picture of the company, and not each individual employee.


Managers Are Focused on Today, Leaders Are Focused on Tomorrow

Leadership means having a vision for the future of a company and leading people towards it. Their focus is on growing the business, hitting certain goals. This can include the clients they want to win, the number of employees they want to join the business, the revenue they want to achieve.

Meanwhile a manager has a much greater responsibility to achieve in the short term. They need to ensure deadlines are met, and the business is running smoothly, all while employees are happy in their jobs.

Dynamic Version Key Difference Between Leadership and Management

What Skills are Important for Managers?

Unsurprisingly, there is overlap in the skills that managers and leaders need. But they’re not all the same. Let’s have a look at 5 of the most important skills that we’re asked for by our clients, when they’re looking for a new manager for their team.

1. Organisation

When it’s your job to organise a team of people, this means you need to not only be on top of your own organisation, but organise everyone else as well. This doesn’t necessarily mean micromanaging your team, but does mean you need to organise all the people in the team to work together effectively.

2. Delegation 

Delegation is one of the most important traits of a manager. You need to effectively parcel out the workload of a project, making sure no one is overworked, deadlines will be met, and to an appropriate standard.

3. Planning

But to delegate, you need to plan. You need to be able to effectively plan timelines for your projects, and the work of the wider team; being aware of everyone on your team’s strengths and capabilities. 

4. Problem-solving 

No project goes off without a hitch. And as a manager of a team, you’re the person people come to with their problems. This means being a person who can solve problems for people, and get them back on track.

5. Supporting 

When you’re managing a team, you need to be able to support them to work at their best. Because when the team achieves well, it is often used as a direct reflection of your managerial capabilities. 


What Skills are Important for Leadership?

A lot of the skills that are important for leadership rely on how you interact with others. Having all the vision and creativity in the world isn’t worth a lot much after all, if you can’t communicate it to others.

1. Communication

Communication is key for both management and leadership. But it’s probably the most important skill for leadership because without being able to effectively communicate a vision, no one will follow a leader. Whereas with poor communication skills, a manager can still delegate to a degree.

2. Motivation

Managers can rely on authority and power to make sure that tasks are completed and work is done on time. But instead, leaders motivate people to work hard by being an example of the hard work they espouse. Which is why it’s so important for leadership to be visible in an organisation.

3. Inspiring

As a leader you need to be able to inspire people, with your words and how you act. Because it’s all about turning your goal into a common goal. Where people want to work towards the same objective, because they believe in it too.

4. Creativity

To be a leader, you’re going to need to be creative. If you aren’t challenging the status quo then people won’t see you as different. You need to stand out from the crowd, be different, and be creative in your approach.

5. Strategic Vision

Of course all the passion and influence in the world isn’t worth much without some strategic vision. Strategic vision is instrumental for turning your creative vision into an actionable reality, and one that can be realistically achieved.


We could keep going for hours on the different skills that are important for leadership and management. But these are 5 of the (if not the 5), most important skills that we are regularly asked for by businesses we work with who are searching for a new manager to help grow a team, or a leader to help innovate the companies services.


If you or your business is looking for a manager or leader who can step up and take the reins in your business, you can reach out to us here, and see how we can help your business grow. Because we take time to understand your business, we can offer an individual and boutique service which includes support for making your business’s growth plans a reality.

Or if you’re looking to move into a leadership or management position in the network, infrastructure or cyber industry, then you can have a look at our open vacancies here. If taking a step into a managerial or leadership position is the next step for you, then it’s worth looking into our open position job adverts to see exactly what employers are looking for.

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