Why Management Is Not Leadership

It's vital to know the difference between the two

(Image: Shutterstock)
(Image: Shutterstock)

Although management and leadership are complementary, they are, by no means, the same thing. In an article challenging their differences, the Wall Street Journal noted that “[a]ny effort to separate the two is likely to cause more problems than it solves.” However, because the two are so frequently confused, it makes sense to tease out key differences. Moreover, because leadership is often assumed based on title and position, the confusion only gets worse. Have you thought about the differences between management and leadership? Do they appear to be the same thing? Let’s explore.

Consider three key reasons why management is not leadership:

1. Leadership focuses on developing people. Management focuses on task administration. At its core, leadership is all about developing people. This fundamental distinction, which is also perhaps the most significant, illustrates that motivating people to succeed is the primary goal. Creating value, building relationships, elevating performance, and aligning synergies escalate this outcome.

Management, on the other hand, is consumed with delegating duties and managing processes. It’s more transactional, identifying positions, functions, procedures, benchmarks, and deadlines as drivers of success.

2. Leadership focuses on next practices. Management focuses on best practices. We’ve all heard the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, when it is broke, “the architect” dubbed as leadership answers the call. Entirely willing to challenge the status quo and root out gaps in performance, leadership is a dead ringer for embracing next-practices. Future-based and forward- thinking, it illuminates the big idea that change can be good, perhaps even life-or-death, for factors such as competitiveness, scalability, and long-term survival.

Management, on the other hand, is not keen on making waves. It operates within the confines of “the box.” Static and inorganic, it thrives by following current mandates, not ruffling feathers or stepping on toes. Looking to best practices as a “how to” guide for navigating performance, management is poised to implement good directions envisioned by others, not to create them.

3. Leadership focuses on soft skills. Management focuses on hard skills. Interpersonal skills are the driving force behind building strong relationships and delivering quality performance. Because leadership is focused on developing people, it necessarily involves harnessing soft skills. Soft skills include communication, attitude, work ethic, problem solving, confidence, social graces, and more. They are considered core competencies that enable you to perform with excellence above and beyond the transactional components of your job description.

Knowledge and occupational prowess, however, are the artifices of management. They include teachable skills that are easy to quantify and required in context. Examples include typing, foreign language proficiency, highly technical skills, industry-specific experience, and more. In their most basic form, these skills are “transactional” in nature and are used to determine professional competence.

Although both leadership and management are necessary components of business, it’s clear that they are quite different. Understanding their differences will help you to perform each with greater confidence and competence as you balance the demands of your career.

To your success!

Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport or visit her website, WordSmithRapport.com.

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