For entrepreneurs, knowing what separates leaders and managers is highly beneficial for two main reasons:
- It helps you find and incorporate the right balance of qualities each has into your own job.
- You get to sharpen your talents and abilities so that you can reach full potential at some point.
In this post I want to help you understand the difference and share my two cents on what I think makes for a good leader (and maybe influence your management style while at it).
Not that I’m some sort of a guru or leading authority on this subject – I’m just a guy who’s been leading and managing for 20+ years and have gone through enough to know that leadership and management are two very distinct functions, despite sharing many commonalities.
First, let’s get two things clear:
What is leadership?
Leadership is about pointing in the right direction. As a leader, you gather a group of people and show them the right pathway toward an endgame, even if they do not see it themselves. To be a leader means to lead amid a lot of uncertainty as you are the only tangible between your business and the endgame – the place that you want to get to.
What is management?
Management is about having someone help you pass through the stages that lead to the endgame. Managers make sure employees stick to predefined standards and policies so that the goals set are carried out.
I imagine the point where lines get blurred is the fact that both sides revolve around working with people and influencing them to achieve goals. Every business needs leaders and managers but their roles should be perceived as complementary to one another, rather than same.
In a nutshell: management enforces the things that leadership wants as managers have to find ways to manage the big picture laid out in front of them.
The difference between leadership and management is a lot like the difference between strategy and tactics. The strategy is an all-embracing plan or set of goals while tactics are specific actions or steps you undertake to fulfill your strategy.
For example, your strategy might be to expand to a new industry as an entrepreneur, and as one of the possible tactics, you might seek out a mentor to get advice on how to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Another major difference between the two is that leadership comes out of respect, from believing in the same idea while management comes from facts.
When you’re leading a company in the right direction, people won’t push to help you get there if they don’t respect you. The management won’t respect you, your employees and peers won’t respect you. When you’re managing, you concern yourself with tangible things such as controlling processes, uncovering and solving problems, as well as monitoring the results of your employees. You have clear guidelines on how things are supposed to be done.
In that regard, leaders take risks while managers control them. For leaders, risks come with the territory. It’s their default state of operations because they try new things in line with the company’s mission. To push the change, managers keep risks to a minimum by making sure the workforce does what it’s supposed to do the way the company tells them to.
Leadership vs Management
|Create a vision||Create goals|
|Build relationships||Build processes|
|Take risks||Control risks|
|Drive change||Maintain the status quo|
|Power by influence||Power by position|
|Break the rules||Follow the rules|
Despite these differences, leadership and management are not mutually exclusive. Every manager is a leader by default but not every leader is a manager too. Sometimes, it’s the same person. Still, most of the time (enough to make generalizations), managers have to lead to success within a specific set of rules. Leaders don’t have those constraints, they can be a bit more aloof in that regard.
What the role of a leader requires
A good leader is someone in whom others place their trust. They trust the leader to take them (people who don’t share the same skill set or level of knowledge and/or expertise) to a place where they want to be but don’t know how to get there themselves.
To earn that trust and respect, you have to project confidence and empowerment.
Sometimes, it’s about doing things that other people don’t have the guts to do. This was my experience for a good part of my career. You take chances and you equally take the blame and credit for taking those chances. Slowly, people get to understand that you’re not only “fighting” for your own interest but you also protect their interest too.
If people know that you are representing them and not “owning” them, they will give trust and respect you. It takes trust to earn trust, and a great leader excels in inspiring trust to take people to places where they’ve never been.
In addition, leaders need to possess the emotional intelligence to be able to drive change. You need to know what makes your team tick and how to motivate it to do what is required and even go beyond it.
In other words – do the seemingly impossible. When you think about the greatest leaders this world has ever seen, like Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King, you realize they all had the ability to influence the behavior and attitudes of those around them by steering change. Their character was their strong point.
However, in no way does this mean that leaders don’t pay attention to tasks and processes. Just like managers, they are frequently very achievement-focused but before anything, they realize the importance of emboldening others (managers) to work toward their vision.
Lastly, find the right balance. To be a powerful leader, you don’t need to have an overarching skill set. Your skills have to be people-centric and demonstrate the power of your belief. Still, that doesn’t automatically mean you have to be friendly with people. A good leader always retains a certain degree of separation and detachment in order to keep the appeal of leadership strong and vibrant.
For my closing words of wisdom (if you want to call them that), I say this:
as an entrepreneur, your job is to find the perfect mix of leadership and management skills. That means making the most potent concoction of inspiring and aligning people, as well as establishing direction on one side, and planning, building, and directing organizational systems to achieve the mission and goals on the other.
In an increasingly complex and volatile business environment, both are pivotal for success. They are intrinsically linked and any effort to separate them will cause more problems than it can solve.