If you spend any time on LinkedIn, you will see a viral post displaying how being a leader is much more important and impactful than being a manager. It’s often depicted by an image of a leader climbing a mountain alongside a team and, on the contrary, a picture of a manager at the top of the mountain yelling at the team as they attempt to climb.
Sure, posts like that are attention-grabbing and will get plenty of shares. But here’s the deal: a leader is often displayed positively, and a manager is usually met with negative connotation, however it’s not that simple and it’s not even accurate.
Management and leadership are two different things, require different talents and serve different purposes. Let’s explore the differences between these two.
According to Gallup, the crucial difference between management and leadership is where the area of focus lies. Management requires an individual to look inward. A manager must have a deep understanding of the inside of an organization, the people who make up the organization and the unique needs.
A good manager knows everyone’s motivating factors, goals, styles and preferences. They also have a solid understanding of each individual’s strengths and how to best leverage them within the team.
When Gallup conducted global research on some of the world’s best managers, four shared insights around management rose to the top. A manager’s mantra is:
- People don’t change that much.
- Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out.
- Focus on drawing out what was left in.
- That itself is hard enough.
Gallup found four standard practices of the world’s best managers throughout the research. A great manager:
- Hires for talent.
- Defines the right outcome.
- Focuses on strengths.
- Finds the right fit.
Leadership requires an individual to focus and look outward. A leader must have a deep understanding of the industry and where it’s going. A good leader can’t simply keep up with the trends and best practices; they need to be a part of defining industry trends and best practices. As Dr. Erik Kneubeuhl, the associate vice chancellor of student affairs at East Carolina University, states, a leader must “Be the Benchmark.” Leaders must be able to identify patterns and find alternative routes forward despite or because of circumstances.
According to Gallup, great leaders are visionaries; they are strategic thinkers and activators. Great leaders play a key critical role in an organization. However, their role is not to leverage the strengths of individual teams into performance; a great manager will do that.
A leader is not a sophisticated version of a manager, and a manager is not a front-line version of a leader. Not every manager wants to be a leader, and not every leader wants to be a manager. An organization will set itself up for failure if it doesn’t clearly define the managers’ and leaders’ roles and responsibilities.
You can’t expect a great leader to perform well in a manager position and vice versa; the majority of individuals will perform better as one than the other.
A unicorn is an individual who excels both at management and leadership. Although uncommon, they are out there, and if you have the opportunity to work with one, marvel in the magic.
Looking to strengthen your management talent? Read “First, Break All the Rules” from Gallup.