Managers vs Leaders
E-Learning |

Managers vs Leaders

In the world of business, the terms ‘Manager’ and ‘Leader’ are often used inter-changeably, but there are some key differentiating factors between them. Whilst the two go hand in hand and many managers are also excellent leaders, some managers lack the leadership skills necessary to inspire and motivate the staff they supervise – often with negative effect. However, these skills can be developed through simple and affordable training, meaning you can possess and develop excellent leadership skills before being in a position of authority!

The key difference between management and leadership:

Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual's ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organisational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.

During a keynote lecture at the Harvard Business School’s annual conference in 2019, Professors Nancy Koehn and Joe Fuller examined the interaction between leadership and management and described their different functions within a business. They divided the terms into two primary points of difference, which I’ve summarised below:

  1. Process vs Vision

Whilst managers set out to achieve organisational goals through implementing processes, such as budgeting, restructuring areas of a business, leaders are more focussed on capitalising on opportunities and longer-term visions. Managers adopt a position that helps them to execute goals that have already been set, but leaders are individuals looking to develop new goals and drive progress further.

  1. Organising vs Aligning

Here, again the differentiator is about an individual’s focus: is it on systems and structures, or people? According to Professors Koehn and Fuller, leaders are less focused on how to organise people to get work done and more on finding ways to align and motivate them. This can be achieved by developing a personal leadership style, which can help leaders to learn how to empower their employees and inspire them to both believe in and pursue important organisational initiatives independently.

For me, the primary difference between the terms lies in the fact that one is a specific role and the other is defined as a quality. The title of ‘Manager’ indicates a role and with it a specific set of duties within an organisation; a manager derives their authority from the title itself, not necessarily the people around them. However, the term ‘Leader’ encapsulates a more fundamental attribute that employees at all levels can possess, an ability to communicate with and inspire others to carry out a task or objective to the best of their ability.

Innovation requires strong leadership. To develop a business model and push employees on to a higher level, management is not enough. A survey conducted by Interact revealed that 69% of managers were uncomfortable communicating with employees, especially when it came to giving feedback. This statistic is shocking but makes it easier to understand how ineffective management led 75% of respondents to a YouGov survey in 2018 to consider leaving their job and 55% to ultimately quit. It’s clear that more managers need to develop a more effective leadership style to improve both the success and the satisfaction of their team and ultimately business.

Whilst, some people seem to have natural leadership qualities, there are myriad ways to become a more effective leader and for most people, this is learned. On CourseSight, we host over 100 different micro-learning modules all catered to help the career development of learners and help them on their progression towards becoming effective leaders. There are numerous combinations of modules that you can hand-pick and tailor to suit your knowledge-gaps or your particular workplace environment, such as Giving Effective Feedback and Executive Presence. Each module is optimised at just 15 minutes in length, so you can complete an entire series of four or five modules over the course of your lunch breaks in one week!

Whether you’re already in a position of authority and want to develop from a Manager into a Leader, or whether you simply want to emerge as a Leader within your current team, you can build your perfect course to get there.


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