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Management vs. Leadership

What’s the difference? While the two words are often used as synonyms, management and leadership vary greatly in their primary functions. In fact, a great Manager may not be a good Leader, and a great Leader may not hold a management title. To put it simply in the wise words of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, “you manage things; you lead people.”

In other words, management is about execution, consistency, and coping with complexity. Leadership is about movement, vision, and coping with change. As a person in a position of authority within your organization, you likely manage on a daily basis. You manage circumstances – setting priorities, making hiring and firing decisions, overseeing operational activities, and providing resources for your team to perform their duties well. Having successful and efficient Managers is key to a business’s success.

That said, having successful and effective Leaders is also key. Leaders provide insight to the ‘why’ behind priorities and decisions. They empower and strengthen employees to fulfill their responsibilities in support of the company’s vision. Most importantly, Leaders influence, inspire, and encourage others to move forward in the same direction.

Here’s where things get complicated: the role of a Manager and that of a Leader often overlap. In times of crisis, you must be capable of managing (implementing changes in platforms or systems, communicating goals and initiatives, adjusting budgets or structure) as well as leading (driving change, developing goals, and adjusting expectations through motivation and alignment). Both roles are necessary to get the job done.

Do you know when to lean into one or the other? Do you feel more confident focusing on process or focusing on people? Ask yourself: do you want to manage, or do you want to lead?


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