Leadership vs. Management – Success Lies in Knowing the Difference

It’s a common misconception that leadership and management are synonymous. While managers can be team leaders and vice versa, there is a difference between the skillset required for management and leadership.

Recognizing and understanding the difference between the two roles will make leaders and managers more successful in growing their companies.

In short, the difference between leadership and management is risk. Leaders are comfortable taking risks that can yield great rewards. As a result, they often make difficult decisions for the good of the company. These can range from restructuring the organization to making new product offerings. Meanwhile, managers are often less comfortable with making those decisions themselves. Rather than making decisions quickly, managers tend to be comfortable asking many questions as they develop actionable plans to make leaders’ decisions a reality.

“Leaders are comfortable taking risks that can yield great rewards.”

As leaders and managers work together, they need to understand the difference between their roles. This understanding will yield better results for the company. Following are four ways leaders and managers can collaborate well:

1. Create Checks and Balances. Although leaders are the final decision-makers, they should never be all-powerful. It is the manager’s role to ensure leaders act in the best interests of the company. Leaders devise the vision and goals for the company and then communicate those to managers. Managers then recognize the potential problems and follow processes to overcome them. Consider our government. We have three branches of government in place so that one entity cannot become too powerful. The same concept can be mirrored in business with the shareholders, executives and management working together to discuss decisions that will affect the state of the business.

2. Embrace Strengths. Too often, people concern themselves with what others think of their leadership or management style. Instead, their primary concern should be if others could rely on them to identify and solve the right problem for the business. Leaders and managers should know where their strengths lie and how they can use them to grow the company. For instance, the consultants at Northridge Group have deep wells of experience across myriad industries and organizational functions. The outside-in perspective can often shed light on ingrained organizational issues that may be overlooked and give a broader view and understanding of the problems the company is trying to solve.

3. Recognize That Roles Are Equally Important. Successful businesses constantly perform a balancing act between innovation and action. Companies with too many leaders may come up with great ideas but lack the clarity and process to bring them to fruition. Those with too many managers, on the other hand, tend to get bogged down in the day-to-day details and miss opportunities to grow. Tech companies offer many examples of striking the balance between innovation and action. Innovation can require potentially risky, long-term investments, while projects that are less revolutionary, but more prudent, can be more enticing to stakeholders. The trick is to find a balance between big picture and day-to-day thinkers.

4. Partner With Different Skill Sets. Any team can have a skill-set gap. Leaders develop and foster teams with different strengths and weaknesses, and managers supervise those teams on the tactical level. Good leaders and managers aren’t afraid to recognize a weakness and ask for outside perspective. For example, I consider one of my strengths to be the long-term view of our future. I embrace that strength and match it with others who have the ability to see the short-term, day-to-day changes that will help reach the complete, cohesive vision.

Both roles are equally important to the health of a business. When leaders and managers know their role and communicate frequently with each other, they set their business up for success.


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