Management and leadership. Two skills that are invaluable and essential in business, and that many think are interchangeable as one and the same – but they’re really very different.
Some people are better managers than they are leaders, and some people are born to lead, but not that great at managing. And then some are both and others are neither! But what’s the difference, and which camp do you fall into?
Here are some of the ways that managers and leaders differ from each other.
Managers are reactive, leaders are proactive
When everything goes up the creek without a paddle, it’s the manager who steers you to safety. They know what to do in a crisis and can take the heat out of the situation. They’re excellent at identifying what the next steps should be and ensuring everyone else knows what they need to do as well.
However, a leader is more proactive and more likely to have foreseen any issues that might crop up, putting safeguards in place to prevent them happening in the first place.
Managers are work focused, leaders are people focused
The manager will (or should) always know what work needs to be done and when it needs to be done by. Their main goal is to get results and they’ll work incredibly hard and diligently to ensure those results are achieved.
A leader is much more people focused and will take extra time to nurture their team personally and professionally, believing that by supporting people the work they produce will speak for itself.
Managers maintain the status quo, leaders challenge it
If you want someone to keep the ship steady (back to nautical metaphors), then you need a good manager. They are good at maintaining the status quo, thinking short term and ensuring things stay on track and get done.
A leader, on the other hand, will aim higher and try to push to the next level. They aren’t content with staying still and are always thinking long term about what’s next for them and the team.
Managers minimise risk, leaders take risks
A manager will do their utmost to minimise risk, so should anything go wrong, there’s the least amount of collateral damage. They ensure that everyone knows their jobs and deadlines and everyone is clued up on best practice – everything ticks along nicely and there’s never too much that can go wrong.
For leaders, however, risk is exciting, it’s what drives them to be better. Sure, it could all blow up in their face, but what if it all went amazingly? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Managers tell, Leaders teach
Managers know their onions and they’re good telling people how to do their job, giving them just enough knowledge to complete the task at hand, but a leader will teach and provide all the necessary tools for their team to grow and hopefully surpass their own knowledge.
Managers are systematic, leaders are chaotic
Organisation, systems and order are very much the remit of a manager. They like to have everything a specific way and have a need to follow the rules, a conformist of sorts.
Leaders are more chaotic in their thinking and practices. They’re happy to break the rules and aren’t as bothered about things being done in a particular way. They’re more open-minded and will champion creativity over productivity .
Is it better to be a manager or a leader?
So which is best? Well, truth be told, if you really want to be the best, then you need to take a little from column A and a little from column B.
Some of the characteristics above sound really quite negative, but they can all be positives when in the right context. For example, you might think it’s a bad thing if a manager maintains the status quo, but if you have a department that’s producing the results then a manager will keep that going, whereas a leader who wants to keep pushing and changing things could upset the apple cart.
Trying to do a little of both is important or you risk an imbalance. Become too systematic and rigid in the way you work and you can stifle creativity and morale, but be too chaotic and you risk standards slipping and discipline going out the window.
So where do you feel you fit in? And maybe you can learn to be a little bit more of a leader or a manager for the benefit of your work life.