Defining the practical differences between leadership and management

What does it take to be an effective leader? Do the skills that make you an effective manager — planning, organization, and communication — make you an effective leader?Or, does it take something else — something more?

Leadership is mostly about behavior.

Management is mostly about processes.

Effective leadership relies on appropriate attitudes, behaviors and the ability to connect with people on a human level.

Effective management relies on intellectual, analytical and technical capacities.

Effective managers recognize that they must support corporate initiatives through the accomplishment of department goals. They must channel their people’s efforts in the appropriate directions in order to accomplish those goals, and in turn, be looked upon favorably by those at the top of the organization. This leads to the notion that the people in the department are there to serve the manager.

Effective leaders, however, reverse that notion. They recognize that leadership involves serving the people in the department — not the other way around. They inspire, motivate and assist their people in the accomplishment of goals rather than direct, demand or otherwise pressure them to take action.

Effective managers acquire specialized knowledge and skills relevant to managing people and helping them accomplish predictable results.

Effective leaders have an instinctual understanding about human nature and why people act the way they do. They can observe their people’s behavior and then analyze and respond to it in an objective, supportive and constructive manner – even when the behavior is outside the norm.

Leadership isn’t the result of any particular management process, but rather the manner by which the process is implemented—the attitudinal qualities the manager brings to everyday interactions. Qualities such as: honesty, integrity, positivity, humility, passion, compassion, sincerity, commitment, confidence and sensitivity. Followers are drawn to people with these qualities.

Leadership isn’t an extension of the manager’s formal authority defined by his or her position in the corporate hierarchy. Trying to lead by authority doesn’t encourage people’s involvement in or ownership of goals and projects. And, it diminishes their sense of control over their work. It gives them a lot to resist, which can lead to reduced performance.

Leadership is about encouraging, enabling and recognizing people for their performance. It’s about serving the people in the department rather than being served by them. It’s about supporting their efforts in the direction of department goals rather than directing their efforts in support of department goals.  The distinction between the two may be small. But, it’s that distinction that defines leadership.

Dave Harman is an associate with Sandler Training. He has over 30 years’ experience in sales and sales management with Fortune 500 companies as well as small, family-owned organizations. He has held positions from sales to senior management with companies such as Conoco/Vista, Amresco and Ohio Awning, and owns his own business. He earned his MBA with a concentration in Marketing from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. You can reach him at [email protected] or (888) 448-2030.