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Leadership vs. Management: What are the Characteristics of a Leader and a Manager

Leadership and management are terms that are often used interchangeably in the business world to depict someone who manages a team of people. In reality leadership vs. management have very different meanings. To be a great manager you must understand what it takes to also be a great leader.

Leadership vs. Management: Characteristics of a Manager

Let's begin by breaking down some key characteristics of a manager. This role in a typical company or organization will reflect a person who's primary focus is on managing a team of people and their activities. The role can differ by scope, types of roles, and can sometimes even be focused on efforts outside of true people management, for example project and process managers.

One of the key characteristics of a manager is very basic in the sense that they are someone who was given their authority by the nature of their role. They ensure work gets done, focus on day to day tasks, and manage the activities of others. Managers focus on tactical activities and often times have a more directive and controlling approach. Being tactical is not altogether a negative approach as this is a skill set that is greatly needed in business especially in the fast paced environments most of us work and live in. Being able to organize people to accomplish tasks can be a great asset.

In many organizations, managers are often times the previous high performers at the employee level. Does this mean they are ready for the challenge of people management? In many cases, the answer is no. To demonstrate solid characteristics of a manager, these previous high performers must be trained. While all types of people can manage, we will now examine what makes a manager a solid leader.

Leadership vs. Management: Characteristics of a Leader

Now if we look at the characteristics of a leader. When you hear the term, leader, a number of images may pop into your head. One phrase that may come to mind is "he or she is a born leader". This phrase does depict a great deal about the difference in managers and leaders as there are a great many distinctions. To demonstrate characteristics of a leader you must be more strategically focused and rather than directing employees through tasks, they inspire and motivate employees to drive themselves. Leaders are adapt in the art of Emotional Intelligence and apply it in a way that attains the best work out of their people.

While a manager receives their authority based on their role, a leader's authority is innate in their approach. Good leadership skills are difficult to learn because they are far more behavioral in nature than those skills needed for management. Think of how different it is to teach someone to manage a particular task with a handbook on how to perform it versus trying to teach someone to effectively negotiate a sale. One, is step by step while the other employs a number of soft skills that, if unfamiliar, can be very difficult to master. This is one reason that building characteristics of a leader can be so challenging for new managers.

Leaders are also very focused on change. Recognizing that continual improvement can be achieved in their people and their activities can be a great step towards continued success. Being able to lead their teams through change management, rather than manage them through it has infinite rewards.

A commonly coined phrase tells us that leadership is doing the right thing and management is doing things right. This illustrates how the two skill sets need to work together. In order to be fully rounded, you must have the ability to manage the day to day tasks and deliver results, while seeing the opportunity for change and the big picture. Demonstrating good leadership skills without the management skills to support it, will leave you with an inability to operationalize your visions. Likewise, being a good manager without good leadership skills will cause continual challenges in motivating your team and producing the results you are trying to manage to. Being able to blend these two styles is truly a unique skill set. Keep in mind there are an abundance of managers in the world but very few truly embody the characteristics of a leader.

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