What’s the Difference Between Leadership and Management?

This week, we’re continuing our series of posts featuring leadership training and expertise from Frank Lee. We already featured Frank’s training on the Three Fundamental Stages of Leadership, but this week we’ll discuss the difference between leadership and management.

Management and leadership are often conflated, but the two are actually quite different. Management, like leadership, is a foundational skill that anyone can cultivat. However, there are tangible distinctions between the two. Leadership is future-oriented, visionary, emotional, and requires “big-picture” thinking. In contrast, management is task-oriented and focuses on operational and present concerns. Another way to understand leadership is “doing the right thing,” while management is “doing things right.” It’s a subtle distinction, but leadership will usually require more macro-level planning and strategizing, while management will focus on micro-level directing and organizing.

What do you do if you are in a management or leadership position? First, realize we all have different inclinations and understanding the management-leadership continuum can help you determine where you fit best and how you can strengthen your skills in both directions. If you take a moment to consider your strengths, can you identify whether you are a leader or manager? If you find yourself leaning more towards one than the other, what can you do improve your abilities? Frank advises recognizing your predisposition to either management or leadership, and then learning to value the other skill. Are you a manager who gets frustrated by your CEO’s big-picture brainstorming? Try to recognize the importance of a leader’s visionary style and recognize how your differing skills can actually complement one another. Also, considering finding resources to enhance your leadership or management. For example, if you know your strength lies in leadership, surround yourself with strong managers and mentors who can help you develop your managerial, as well as leadership capabilities.

As Frank’s training emphasizes, remember that neither leadership nor management is better than the other. We all have different abilities and inclinations, and learning to adapt as both a manager and leader will serve you well in times of change and complexity. Do you think you’re a manager or a leader? How do you adapt in the workplace? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for our next post in our series on Frank Lee’s training, Understanding Emotional Intelligence.