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Management or Leadership? What's the Difference?

A common question asked by newly appointed managers attending our Management and Leadership training courses is, ‘What’s the difference between management and leadership?’

It’s an important question as the difference is not a mere case of pedantics. Although the two concepts work hand in hand, there are important differences between the two terms, which managers need to understand, if they are to appreciate when they should be leading and when they should be managing.

Essentially, the difference between leadership and management is that leaders inspire people to follow them, whilst managers have people working for them. 

To help describe this further, let’s look at some fundamental differences between the two:

  • Leadership tends to be more visionary and to involve the ‘what’, whilst Management tends to be more hands-on and involve the ‘how’. As such, while a leader develops the vision, the manager thinks through how it can be delivered.
  • Managers must constantly be aware of budgets and financials, whilst leaders are not bound by the same constraints when looking ahead to future developments.
  • Leaders focus on innovating future offerings, whilst Managers focus on business processes and delivering quality and margins.

Although these differences are a useful way of describing the situation, they are also rather crude. Why? Because the majority of businesses based in Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset are SMBs, and, as such, it’s important that managers can harness both skills. To ensure business success and competitiveness, it’s crucial that managers can organise team activities to ensure immediate goals and needs are delivered, but that they can also inspire their staff to be the best they can be and to feel an invested interest in helping their business to achieve their strategic goals. 

How might this work in practice?

Managers need to be able to appreciate when to lead and when to manage. Different scenarios require a different response and being in tune with what is needed (and when) will lead to more successful outcomes.

Take, for example, a translation company manager with responsibility for managing a complex, technical translation project. The manager must be able to select the people within the team with the appropriate expertise for the project and provide training where it might be lacking. They must then be able to set and manage the project timescales to ensure that the translations, proofreading, formatting, and quality checks are all complete as necessary. If issues/challenges beset the project, then it’s necessary that the manager is able to resolve these and keep the project moving forward.
From a leadership perspective, this same manager must also able to decipher potential challenges and establish new technologies or processes which may benefit the translation company in the long term. They should be adept at motivating their staff through the highs and lows of the project and keep them focused on the final end goal.

It’s important that managers working within smaller businesses in the South West are able to determine what is needed and when. A manager with a fixation on micromanaging and controlling team activities is likely to be face resentment from team members. Instead, they should be able to control events when needed, but also set broader goals and lead the team in the delivery of these goals. By giving freedom to staff where possible, staff are far more likely to express creativity, come up with new ideas, show initiative, and independence.

To summarise, managers must be able to focus on the processes, whilst leaders must be able to set the vision and inspire. For those working in smaller businesses, such as those based in the South West, managers are expected to both lead and manage. So, although the challenges might be greater, so too are the rewards and opportunities.

If your organisation could benefit from management or leadership training, contact Training South West to discuss your needs further. With a specialist management and leadership training team, we take the logistics out of training by sending our trainers directly to your business to deliver training courses on site. Whether you’re in Devon, Somerset, Dorset or Cornwall, we can help.

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