Management vs. Leadership: What’s the Difference?

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While the terms are often used interchangeably, leadership and management are not the same thing. The differences are sometimes subtle, but recognizing the distinctions can help those in senior positions gain a better understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

It’s also important to define these terms because in today’s competitive business environment, the people who work for you can no longer be viewed as cogs in the machine. Human resources are the most important asset for any company, and managers must strive to become better leaders in order to cultivate those essential resources.

What sets managers and leaders apart

Leadership and management go hand in hand, but the terms carry slightly different meanings. Where management is concerned with organization and planning, the role of leadership is to motivate and inspire. Specifically, here’s where they differ:

Focus. The drivers for management’s actions tend to be focused on operations. Managers are concerned with systems and structures. They work to maintain the status quo and keep things running smoothly, with an eye toward the company’s bottom line.

By contrast, leaders focus on people. Instead of maintaining current conditions, they work to develop the environment and inspire employees to concern themselves with systems, structures, and profitability. Leaders look toward the future of the company.

Implementation. Much of a manager’s working methodology centers around administration and control. They operate within the existing framework of the company, carrying out procedures that have already achieved proven results. Leaders may use existing protocols, but their actions are often built on innovation and inspiring trust from their teams.

Viewpoint. The function of a manager is not necessarily as callous and calculating as it sounds. Managers must meet certain targets, and most of their actions are colored by the lens of corporate goals and responsibilities. While not all managers take a “my way or the highway” approach to achieving their targets, they usually focus on the short-range view, asking how and when things will be done.

On the other hand, leaders adopt a long-range perspective. By asking what needs to be done and why, they seek out solutions that will benefit the company both now and in the future—even if those solutions challenge the existing practices and procedures.

Similarities between management and leadership

Despite the distinctions separating them, leadership and management are built on the same foundation. Both managers and leaders hold supervisory roles, and are responsible for directing a team of employees in pursuit of a set of common goals.

Regardless of the techniques and strategies they use, these senior roles carry additional responsibilities. Both are held accountable for the employees they supervise, sharing in the successes and the failures of their teams. Finally, managers and leaders are equally invested in the performance of the company as a whole.

How managers can move toward leadership roles

In today’s business landscape, those who adhere strictly to management principles will struggle to thrive. In order to cultivate a truly efficient and productive team, managers must incorporate aspects of leadership into their roles and learn to stretch existing boundaries.

Rather than simply assigning tasks to employees, managers should define a purpose for each team member. Telling them what to do is important, but telling them why they should do it helps them understand their own roles in the company, and allows them to feel like valued contributors to the team.

Encouraging employee participation—not just in production, but also in opinions on workplace issues and development of the business—is an important leadership tool that managers should embrace. This increases employee engagement, which naturally boosts productivity and improves efficiency.

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Helpmates Staffing has worked with the Southern California business market and its candidates for more than 40 years, providing highly qualified talent with leadership capabilities for companies like yours. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for your management team.

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