Leadership vs. Management: What's the Difference? 🤔

  • Remote Working & Freelancing
Contra Tips
· 7 min read

Learn the similarities and differences between leadership and management, and discover skills to become a better leader or manager.

Businesses require cogs and wheels to work harmoniously to drive success. As this engine hums, two pivotal forces — leadership and management — steer it in the right direction. Although discerning the difference between management and leadership isn’t always easy, both roles have distinct roles and responsibilities. 

In this guide, we’ll discuss managing versus leading, how they differ, and the skills you'll need to fill the boots for each, helping you gain clarity on which role resonates more with your business ethos and how to leverage both for optimum growth.

What is leadership? 💪

Leadership is how you conduct yourself and your strategies to inspire and guide people toward completing a common goal. Although you might think leadership relates to a rank or position, it's more about what you do to help others make a change that everyone can benefit from. From a business point of view, great leaders must:

  • Empower people to give them the skills and knowledge to complete a goal.
  • Craft a vision for the company, team, or project that everyone works toward.
  • Develop change through promoting an environment that rewards and embraces adaptation and innovation.
  • Set an example for their team, inspiring them to take the right steps. 

In essence, leadership is a holistic approach to achieving common goals through strategies that promote a positive environment, behaviors that empower others, and communication that shares knowledge and skills. 

What is management? 🧐

Management refers to the process of planning, organizing, directing, and controlling resources (people, finances, or materials) to achieve specific organizational goals in a given timeframe. You could say that where leadership focuses on why you are doing something, management focuses on how these things are done. A great manager must:

  • Execute a plan or strategy that involves coordinating your resources or assigning tasks.
  • Control and monitor ongoing tasks and activities, including making any necessary adjustments to align with goals.
  • Manage change, whether a different deadline or reduced resources, which could affect a goal’s outcome.
  • Organize team structure, assigning tasks and ensuring resources are used effectively. 

In a nutshell, a manager oversees everything happening with a project and communicates instructions or strategies to the team to ensure goals are met.  

Leadership vs. management: The key differences 📚

While leadership and management might seem similar at first glance and overlap, there’s a significant difference in the approach to accomplishing goals and working with people. Here are five key differences between a leader and a manager:  

1. Setting versus following a vision 🗣️

Leaders create a vision and inspire others to complete that vision. Managers, on the other hand, execute strategies to accomplish goals that adhere to the concept created by people in leadership positions.

2. Handling people versus processes 🧑‍💻

Leaders help people figure out their strengths and motivate them to improve to complete goals. Managers, however, focus more on coordinating with teams and resources to complete tasks. 

3. Looking to the future versus working in the present 🎖️

Leaders contemplate how a business or team should go, developing strategies. Managers, conversely, work on the immediate tasks that pave the way for that direction.

4. Coming up with ideas versus executing them 💡

Leaders set a direction and think of innovative ideas, whereas managers put those strategies into practice to achieve quantifiable results. 

5. Setting versus enforcing a culture 🤠

Leaders set a tone for the team or business, while managers maintain the established culture by enforcing rules and strategies. 

How do leadership and management overlap? 🤝

As mentioned, leadership and management not only imply distinct responsibilities but also mean some overlap in the way they function. Here are a few commonalities:

  • Promote interpersonal communication: Both leaders and managers communicate with people, specifically teams, managers, or stakeholders. They also actively listen to members’ concerns or opinions and share feedback.
  • Set goals: Leaders cast visions and inspire teams toward a particular direction, while managers set tangible objectives to bring that vision to life. Both roles are vital in identifying and establishing targets.
  • Allocate resources: While managers are more commonly associated with allocating resources like time, money, and personnel, leaders also play a role, especially when prioritizing projects or directing organizational focus.
  • Continuous learning and improvement: Both leaders and managers emphasize the importance of continuous learning, professional development, and refining strategies to adapt to changing circumstances.

Leadership skills vs. management skills 🔧

While the similarity between leadership and management certainly exists, you’ll need a few skills to perform each role well. Here are skills specific to each category: 

Leadership skills 🤩

  1. Creativity: As a leader, you must be able to brainstorm to generate innovative ideas and often find neutral ways to handle challenges or confrontations that encourage your team to do the same. You can try different hobbies or solve puzzles to improve your creativity. Try to engage in things that require you to think outside the box.
  2. Commitment: Your team will look up to you for guidance, wisdom, and resolve. As a leader, you’ll need to set an example for them to keep them committed to the company's vision and goals. To improve your professional commitment, you can begin by creating and sticking to personal goals, rewarding yourself when completing them, and holding yourself accountable when you don't.
  3. Feedback: You must be able to inspire and encourage your team as a leader, and part of that is providing constructive feedback, even when something goes wrong. Rather than waiting for someone to finish speaking so you can say your piece, consciously listen to what they are saying and look for positive things the person has done. 
  4. Flexibility: Nothing is ever predictable, especially when working with people (to embrace different perspectives) or when running a company. As a leader, you’ll need to be flexible with your approach to situations to adapt to any changes in circumstances. To improve this, you can start by accepting that you're only sometimes correct and learn to look for value in what people say. You can also shift your mindset to view change as a chance to grow rather than a threat. 

Management skills 🤓

  1. Delegation: As a manager, you’ll have to assess the best person for a job and assign tasks to them. This will allow you to achieve an efficient workflow and get results. 
  2. Problem-solving: You must be able to tackle many problems and make fast decisions to keep everything running smoothly. Develop a mindset of analyzing the root cause of problems, and hold collaborative discussions with your team to gain varying perspectives. 
  3. Strategic thinking: All your decisions and strategies must align with your business's long-term goals, which means you need to be able to think strategically. Develop your understanding of the company's goals to see the big picture, and ensure everything you do aligns with them. You could also create hypothetical situations and challenge yourself to solve these issues. 
  4. Organization: To coordinate tasks or allocate resources, you’ll need to know what your team is doing and what is available to help them, which requires strong organizational skills. You can improve your organizational skills by prioritizing tasks, using project management tools, and actively communicating with your team.

Which is better? 👍

Although there’s no definitive answer to this question, you might have realized that leadership roles carry a bit more weight, considering as a leader, you’d be setting the company's direction, goals, and vision. However, without management, you won’t be able to manage goal setting. 

While leadership generates the idea, management contributes the tools to bring it to life. It’s possible to show leadership in management positions, but without the skills of management or leadership, a business or project would surely fail.

Talk business with Contra 💸

Now that you know the difference between leadership and management, it’s time to put your skills to the test. With Contra, you can collaborate with clients waiting for leaders and managers like you to take control of their projects and ensure success. 

Similarly, if you are looking for freelancers to manage your business, Contra has a community of top Independents to take your projects to new heights. Join Contra today.

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