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Leadership and Management: What’s the difference?

There is a difference between being a leader and being a manager. Do you know the difference? I bet you could easily point to examples of leaders and managers but may not be able to articulate the difference in words. You may recognize the person who is able to engage people in a cause or an event. This person, the leader, see possibilities and is able to help others see them. He or she can get individuals or a group moving to solve a problem or to introduce something new that may even seem impossible.

Leaders can create vision. A leader is someone who serves the group or the mission, doing what needs to be done and generating so much interest and enthusiasm that those around her or him begin to see possibilities and want to be part of the action. Leaders encourage and even push those around them to be better and to challenge themselves. Leaders move us forward, as individuals and as communities or organizations. We all have the potential for leadership. But sometimes we need more than vision and possibilities.

Managers are equally important. They take a vision and make it happen. They may not have the same charismatic appeal as a leader but they are those people who can take an idea or a task and break it down into the bite size pieces, get those pieces to the right people with the right tools, and make sure everything gets done. Managers are the people who help us turn ideas into reality. And of course they can also be leaders. The roles are not mutually exclusive but sometimes the situation calls for more of one than the other. It is a good manager that recognizes that and make sure the situation gets just what is needed.

By the time we get to be adults we have had the experience of working with both leaders and managers. We see the importance of both and the times when the wrong “person” showed up for the task. Those times when the manager took the lead, focusing on getting things done when we really needed some leadership to help us see other possibilities, are difficult. And then the times when we were so engaged in the possibilities and the future that we forgot we had to actually get things done are equally frustrating.

Here is the value of education, formal and informal, each of us has the potential to be both manager and leader.  Sometimes all we need is someone to help us recognize our own possibilities and we can change not only ourselves but things around us.

Learn to be a leader as well as a manager and learn when each role is needed. Taking courses in management and leadership can give you the skills and confidence necessary. Many schools have continuing education or certificate programs as well as degree programs. Check them out.

Dr. Ellen McMahon
Differences between leadership and management
  Basic Skills: leadership and management