Leadership vs Management: What’s the difference?

Many articles and books have focused on the need for leadership in recent years. I’m afraid this focus has driven leaders to abandon the need for management. Leadership and management are two skills everyone with responsibility in an organization need to develop. It is said that we manage things, such as money, equipment, materials, and time while leading people. This is true, but sometimes that is not clear enough. It may be more clear to look at the different skills required for each method.

How we structure an organization involves people, hiring, performance evaluations, and payroll all of which involve people. This shows that people or things are not a clear division between leadership and management. So, management is focused on reports, processes, organizations, policies, practices, procedures, and paperwork, as they relate to people, plus the allocation of resources. Management is structured and documented within an organization. Management skills require analytical thinking, organizational, strategic and tactical thinking, and the ability to communicate one-on-one. Management is a higher level activity but still requires similar qualifications to the administrative individual contributor within an organization.

Leadership is the softer skills of someone overseeing an organization. They can include providing a vision, motivation, setting expectations, supporting, caring for, and bringing out the best in others. Leadership skills require strategic thinking, thinking outside the organization, imagination, ability to inspire, relationship building, caring for people, and the ability to communicate to large groups. Leadership requires an understanding of psychology and human nature/behavior and how to use that knowledge to get the best out of your team. Leadership requires the ability to relate to the individual and to the organization as a whole.

The differences between management and leadership have been identified. However, there are similarities between management and leadership. Both management and leadership are skill sets that can be developed. The skill sets support each other. Management and leadership need to be demonstrated to greater extents as you move up in the organization. Also, both are necessary for the long-term success of an organization.

There are numerous examples of organizations that are headed by CEOs with one skill set or the other. Startups are often great examples of visionary leaders who lack the managerial skill set. These organizations struggle to transition from startup to long-term operation due to weak managers. It is easier for these leaders to transition to a new product or service, another start-up.

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