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Do you really know the difference between leadership & management?

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This article is written by the author of the free eBook “Leadership Skills”

The question of leadership and management occupies the thinking of even the most experienced person. They sometimes struggle to identify the relationship between the two and the paradoxes that create confusion often mean that the question isn’t answered satisfactorily in any sense of the word. Here we discuss how the two terms are not diametrically different; simply different sides of the same coin.

The difference between leadership and management is really quite simple.

You manage things. You lead people.

Leaders and managers exhibit a set of different skills and behaviours that are closely linked and complimentary to each other. Management and leadership are both necessary for success. Individuals who can excel in both help their employees and businesses thrive in today’s business climate. 

Management is task-focused

It’s short term. It’s a series of checklists and “to do’s” that ensure the work gets done.  It’s how we execute tasks to achieve a specific desired outcome. It’s taking actions to achieve a budget or deliver a project on time. It is the manner in which resources are used to achieve objectives.

Leadership is people-focused

It’s the words said and actions performed to inspire something deep within another. People involved understand their role in achieving it. It’s providing the spark that fires someone’s drive, motivating them to carry out increasingly challenging ways of working. It is the art of influencing and directing people to accomplish the mission.

When to lead, when to manage?

People looking to head a successful business should focus more on leadership because it gives employees the focus needed to get started. With an established direction, management naturally falls into play because it will set the deadline and details.  We don’t say “They’re managing a revolution”. We tend to say, “Leading a revolution.” When others respond to how they’re doing with “I’m managing”, it implies “keeping up” or “going with the flow.

The real essence in this is to determine in which situations you need to exhibit both components. So the question could be asked, “When should you lead and when should you manage?”

The problem is that most people in leadership roles spend the majority of their time and efforts managing and almost none of their time leading.  Where is your time being spent? Take a piece of paper and make a list of all of your weekly activities.  Next to each one, write the amount of time it consumes. If it is a management activity, (managing things, budgets, resources, operational, etc.) label it with an M. If it is a leadership activity, (people related) label it with an L.

The importance of knowing your people

Managers spend more time managing things and leaders spend time with people. Do you know your people? Do you know what they want? Do you know their strengths and weaknesses? Are you coaching them to get better? Do you know what their short, mid-, and long term career goals are? Are you meeting one-on-one with each team member on a regular basis to coach them on their individual development plans? Do you ask or tell?

An employee comes to your office with a problem or a challenge. They explain the whole scenario. You decide on two choices here 1) Tell them what to do, and then ask them what questions they may have about your solution. 2) Ask them what they think are possible solutions, and which they think would work best.

Which choice you make determines whether you are attempting to manage the situation or lead the person. Ask, “Why do you think this is an issue?” and, “What do you suggest we do?” That will allow you to get a different perspective on matters and show you are interested in ‘leading’ rather than just ‘managing’.

When managing people, you want them to get it done. When leading people, you are coaching them to arrive at a solution with their own thinking, so that they can be more productive in the future. Managers tell and leaders ask.

Are you delegating effectively? 

Many managers don’t because they feel that it’s their job, or that others couldn’t do it as well as they could. Managers seldom delegate. Leaders delegate strategically. They delegate a task for a reason, with thought and planning. The purpose may be to teach a skill, boost self-esteem, reward performance, or train for future opportunities. Managers never delegate, unless they have to.

Boosting morale and achieving results are the cornerstones of most organisational success in today’s economic climate. When employees experience true leadership, there is often a big increase in morale, productivity and loyalty. So it’s up to you to make the choice…when you go to work tomorrow, will you choose to manage or choose to lead? It could make a real difference.

Author Credit: Founder and MD of international management development firm MTD Training, Sean McPheat is widely regarded as a leading authority on modern day management and leadership. Sean and his team of 20 trainers and consultants have delivered a wide range of open and in-house management courses to clients such as Friends Provident, Aggreko, Monarch and Nestle to name but a few.

If you are looking for more information about what managing and leading people is all about, you can download Sean’s free eBook “Leadership Skills”.

Download “Leadership Skills” right here