The terms ‘leadership’ and ‘management’ are often used interchangeably and whilst they are complementary, they are not the same.

It is important to recognise the differences in the style of approach to team management to not only utilise each at the appropriate time, take advantage of the benefits of both styles, and to also understand the potential consequences of each.

Differences in style of approach to team management between a leader and a manager

  • A manager will direct employees with their work and tasks, whereas a leader will motivate them to do their best in their work and tasks. Managers are responsible for delivering orders, organising workload and flow, assigning tasks to their team members, tracking and managing results, and ensuring the job is done. With employees increasingly wanting more growth, flexibility, and trust in their work, a leader will focus on bringing out the best in people and getting them to use their skills and talent to inspire results. Staff will follow managers by nature of their job description and title, however they will follow a leader and their vision and encouragement voluntarily.
  • A manager will ensure systems and structures are being followed, and a leader will look to the people to get things done through trust and empowerment.
  • Due to a manager’s key responsibility being on delivering organisational goals, they are likely going to follow organisational protocol and channels to achieve success. Leaders will focus on an employee’s satisfaction and may look to new ways of achieving within the organisational and team framework.
  • A manager tends to focus on process and status quo; a leader will constantly try to innovate and develop new and more efficient ways of doing things. Similar to the above, a leader will look at new and different ways of getting a job done. They will encourage forward-thinking individuals and teams, challenge the current process in order to seek greater success and efficiencies, and place focus on continual improvement.
  • Managers are focused on short-term goals, whereas leaders are constantly looking forward and working through change.
  • Since managers are tasked with ensuring set tasks are performed and goals are met, they are very focused on those tasks, goals, and the bottom line. It is about meeting expectations and accomplishing the objectives and mission set out by the organisation. A leader will assist in achieving this through empowering employees, but will also look at laying groundwork for the future, charting new growth, working in employee feedback and ideas into future plans, and considering investment for future profitability.
  • Managers will share a vision or goal; leaders will sell it to people to get them on board and take them on a journey.Whilst managers communicate goals, plan details, and assign tasks, leaders will build excitement, gain stakeholder buy-in, and have a general direction which allows the team to move forward together.
  • Managers focus on managing work and output; leaders focus on the people and leading them to achieve overall objectives. A manager’s role and approach can be thought of as more transactional - they tell employees what they need to achieve and expect them to do their assigned duties. A leader is more strategic and tries to have employees use their own initiative and expertise to achieve and drive themselves forward, and trust them to be the best they can be.
  • Managers have formal team members and subordinates; by following a leader, you do not necessarily have to report to them. A manager will ensure work gets done and has authority by nature of their role and title. They need to be more direct and focus on tactical activities to accomplish tasks. A leader doesn’t necessarily have formal authority and based on their communication and behaviour, people will follow them and work towards what they want to get done.
  • Managers have a transactional style and way of approaching their role, whereas leaders are more transformational. By a leader focusing on transformation, they shape culture rather than enforcing it, and they drive passion and energy. It means transforming a staff member’s role, output, and overall team success. It is about appealing to the people around you and unlocking the potential of a team.
  • Managers minimise risk, whereas leaders can be seen as risk-takers. This isn’t to say a leader will break the rules; it is more about stretching themselves and their team for a potential greater pay-off and result, and doing what is right for the overall goal. It is more about harnessing opportunities and overcoming hurdles to make it into their competitive advantage.

Potential consequences of the two approaches

If a manager is not effective, it can lead to reduced productivity, loss of motivation of employees, and an inefficient workflow. If a leader is not effective, team performance may also be impacted, but it can result in employee turnover, employee development suffering, and the organisation’s culture being misaligned. This is why it is important to understand the differences of each style of approach to team management and effectively use each style in the correct situation to garner the most from your staff.

Overall, the key difference is that a manager will focus on planning, organising, and coordinating resources to manage tasks and deliver results. A leader will inspire, motivate, and influence those around them which will drive people to achieve their goals and objectives whilst working towards the bigger picture.

If you would like to discuss how to fill your team with candidates capable of both leadership and management skills, contact us today to hear how we can help.