Management vs. Leadership

Is a manager (supervisor/team lead etc…) a leader? Can a leader be a manager? First response is probably “Yes” and “Yes”, of course! Why not? But when we look a little closer, each has a different method to an end goal.  A Google search reveals that there are thousands of ways to explain the differences between a manager and a leader. However, there are commonalities defined throughout the comparisons. After 25 years in my career I have seen “managers” and I have seen “leaders” and some times I have been blessed with a “leader that could also manage”.  As a young social worker, I had a supervisor that was very interested in discussing how I was doing, how her family was doing and focused very little on developing professional skills. This resulted in a bit of a professional struggle as well as a lack of understanding the profession as a whole. Then at the other end of the spectrum, I was employed by a very large agency that promoted people who were very task oriented and less focused on people. This environment resulted in lowered moral, lowered productivity, increased time off, and less creativity. Co-workers began to see their job as a means to “pay the bills and put food on the table”. The balance of leadership and management saw the “bigger picture” of the organization, yet promoted individual professional growth and hold people accountable for completing assigned tasks. It was amazing! The tasks were completed, the team was credited, most people felt good about completing the assignment and was ready to work on the next task.  An added bonus was that most had fun while working.

We all know that there are times when one skill is necessary over the other. Both managers and leaders work toward doing the best job possible and completing assignments with the skills they have. Management techniques have been described as  controlling the process, blaming others, providing directives and instructions. While a leader is noted to empower people to take ownership of their work, to accept responsibility for team actions, and encourage creative problem solving.Research shows that there are several types of leaders and that effective leaders utilize a variety of styles to build positive teams and positive environments. The funny thing is that true leaders worry less about managing projects because they practice values of respect, trust, expectations, honesty, caring, empowering others and the list can goes on. The bottom line is that good leaders practice their values daily with everyone.

Becoming a good leader is harder work for some, while others leading comes naturally. The key is, good leaders know AND practice their values in conjunction with their style, they do not see values and leadership as separate entities, they are married. The first step to becoming a good leader to stop and consciously acknowledge personal values then use the leadership style that best fits the situation.