What’s the difference between leadership and management? This is a question that continues to spark debate from company meeting rooms to leadership seminars worldwide. It used to be believed that anyone in a management position was effectively a leader. However, most experts now agree that the role and activities of a leader are distinctly different to those of a manager. Interestingly, research has shown that people may have a natural disposition for one or the other – with some behavioural traits associated more with successful leadership and others with successful management. As they say, not all leaders can manage and not all managers can lead. Take Steve Jobs for instance. One of the best leaders of our time, but self-admittedly not the best manager.
Both roles are equally as important in the effective running of any business. Figuring out where you are naturally best suited can help you, either to focus your career plan or to show you the areas you need to develop if you want to go in the other direction.
So how do you know if you were born to be a leader, or if you would excel more in a managerial role? Answer these questions to find out (being true to your actual self rather than how you want others to see you or how others want you to be):
- Do you 1) enjoy taking risks or 2) avoid taking risks?
- Which do you find more satisfying: 1) delayed gratification or 2) instant gratification?
- Do you work 1) with a long-term vision in mind or 2) focusing purely on the present?
- Are you more interested in developing 1) strategies or 2) processes, policies and frameworks
- When it comes to problems are you better at 1) identifying them or 2) solving them?
- Do you 1) instigate and create positive change or 2) manage the change and re-establish order?
- Would you describe yourself as 1) creative and innovative or 2) practical and methodical?
- Do you prefer to 1) motivate and inspire people or 2) manage assets, plans, procedures and budgets?
- Do you prefer to 1) delegate or 2) do the job yourself?
- Are you better at 1) sourcing and securing funds & resources or 2) managing funds & resources?
- Do you naturally 1) empower others or 2) manage and give instructions?
- Do you 1) challenge ideas and proposals or 2) accept and execute them?
- Do you focus on 1) building or 2) maintaining?
- When you are in a meeting do you naturally 1) take a lead position in the discussion or 2) observe?
- Do you prefer 1) creating the plan or 2) implementing the plan and monitoring the outcomes?
- Meeting new people and building relationships 1) energises you or 2) doesn’t interest you.
- Do you see yourself as 1) a good leader or 2) a good manager?
If you chose mostly 1s then leadership is likely the natural role for you. If you chose mostly 2s then you may be more suited to management. There are no right or wrong answers, and neither one is better than the other. If you got roughly the same number of 1s and 2s then both options could be worth exploring further.
The key question here is what do you want? If you scored mostly 1s and want to be a leader, recognise that you will most likely have to perform well in at least one or two management roles before you get there. This means developing your management skills is a must. If on the other hand, you scored mostly 2s and want to be a leader, you now know there are some leadership skills you need to develop to help you achieve your leadership goal.
It’s also worth noting that if you are currently in a leadership role and struggling, this could be because you are naturally more of a manager than a leader. In this case, you have three options:
- Continue as you are and potentially suffer the consequences of increased stress on both your work and personal life.
- Hire a Leadership Coach or attend a leadership training course to develop your leadership skills and build your confidence.
- Move into a more managerial role, where you feel you are better suited and could add significant value.
For you own personal sanity and fulfilment, I would recommend either option 2) or 3).
It could also mean that you’re in the right role but haven’t hired the right managers. As a result, instead of focusing on leadership, you are spending too much time carrying out managerial duties – taking you out of your natural habitat. Steve Jobs overcame this by making sure he surrounded himself with amazing managers.
Both leadership and management are essential to the success of any company. While leaders are great at building vision and strategy, the vision remains nothing but a dream if there are no managers to implement plans and monitor progress. Whichever road you decide to go down, recognise the valuable contribution you will make in either role and take note of what areas, if any, you need to develop. Whether it’s finding an online course, attending training or hiring a leadership coach, there are plenty of ways you can easily improve these skills. Pick the medium that best suits your learning style for maximum efficiency and effectiveness, then go for it!
If you enjoyed this, you might also like: