Leadership vs Management: How to Differentiate and Why It Matters

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Ellie Nieves100
Women's Leadership Speaker & Coach
April 13, 2024 at 12:3AM UTC
In an ever-increasing competitive workplace, how we show up matters. If you want to get ahead, you have to show up as a leader – not a manager. The difference between leadership vs management is big, and the distinction between the two matters.

What Is Leadership?

Leadership requires a unique set of skills. Leaders develop a vision and communicate that vision so effectively that everyone understands their role in achieving the vision. Leaders build high performing teams by hiring talented individuals and investing in their professional development. There is a level of management involved in leadership, but leadership is not just about completing tasks; rather, it’s also about driving results.

What Are Some Leader Qualities?

  • Having Vision
  • Inspiration
  • Ability to Challenge
  • Communicative
  • Goal-Oriented
  • Leads by Example

What Is Management?

Managers make the business world go round. When goals and objectives are set, managers are the implementers. They get things done. Management requires planning, organizing and controlling the various aspects of projects and the related outcomes. Managers are process oriented. They rely on other people, primarily subordinates, to complete tasks and move projects along. Managers delegate set deadlines and evaluate work product. They also course-correct when needed.  

What Are Some Manager Qualities?

  • Having Vision
  • Inspiration
  • Ability to Direct
  • Communicative
  • People-Focused
  • Process Management
You can see that many of the same qualities overlap, but there are some key differences.

What Is the Difference Between Leadership and Management?

The key differences between leaders and managers are as follows.
  • Leadership is mission-driven while management is task-driven.
  • Leaders coach, while managers direct.
  • While a leader keeps a team focused on the overall purpose of their work, a manager keeps a team focused on completing a task.
  • Leaders can be transformational and inspire people to achieve high-quality work, while managers control people and their work.
  • Leaders are innovative while managers follow the books.
  • Leaders take risks, while managers control risk.

How Can You Be a Leader?

Management is an essential skill required to perform effectively. It is also a foundational skill that can evolve into leadership. But, leadership is a combination of personal qualities that inspire others to follow. Here are some key skills to develop if you're looking to advance from being a manager to a leader.
  • Develop a vision for success. Developing a strategic vision for the future is needed to lead others effectively.
  • Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm and passion for the work that you do are contagious and motivates others.
  • Communicate well and often. When you are in a leadership position, people expect you to guide them through work situations. Your ability to communicate is important if you want to effectively lead a team. It is also important to be able to communicate with colleagues at all different levels from team members to senior leadership.
  • Develop a high-performing team. Learn about talent management and best practices for sourcing and hiring strong candidates. Additionally, strategically aligning the strengths of your team members once they are on board can make the difference in performance outcomes. And a top-notch team will allow you to more effectively reach business goals and to ultimately be more successful.
  • Motivate and inspireTelling others what to do is not as effective and getting them to willingly follow your direction. Getting others to buy into it is the stuff that leadership is made up. Learn how to share your ideas and articulate compelling reasons for your strategy. More importantly, help others understand the important role they will play in executing the vision.
  • Set and achieve high standards for yourself. Setting and achieving high standards for yourself can be challenging. Especially if others around you are not setting high standards for themselves. But, therein lies what separates a leader from the rest of the pack — the willingness and ability to achieve at higher levels, even when others don’t.
As an aspiring leader, setting high standards requires that you develop a strategic and compelling vision for who you want to be and what you want to achieve. It is that vision that will provide you with the drive and perseverance to attain your leadership goals. In setting high standards for yourself, consider the following questions.
  • Meet and exceed the standards that you ask others to achieve. Expect to work harder than others who answer to you. Are you setting an example of excellence and for those around you?
  • Develop a support system of other leaders. Surround yourself with individuals who encourage you and share your vision. Do your closest associates bring out the best in you?
  • Develop your personal discipline. Effective leaders have a long-term commitment to their goals. Are you willing to take consistent action towards attaining your goals over time?
Ellie Nieves, JD, MBA, develops webinars, seminars, and coaching programs to help high achieving women show up, speak up and step up in their careers. She is also the host of the Leadership Strategies for Women Podcast where she shares success tips to help women achieve more both personally and professionally. To learn more, go to www.EllieNieves.com.

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