Whenever I am running a workshop or training on leadership, I usually start with a question.
The question on the face of it should be really easy to answer. The question I ask is:
What is leadership and how is it different from management?
Yet in reality it is very difficult to answer.
What I often see happening initially is people talking about the difference between a leader and manager.
They talk about specific people and why one is a leader and one is a manager.
In many ways I am not surprised that people find it tough. If you search on Google you will get plenty of results.
When you click on specific articles or research you get a lot of conflicting and contradictory opinions.
Sometimes I even see things which for me as clearly being management described as leadership and vice versa.
Do I have the definitive answer? Probably not. Here is my take on someone who is leadership rather than management:
You Have Significant Responsibility
This might be at a functional, divisional or even at a large project level.
You Are Responsible For Setting Strategy
In other words setting the overall direction for a function, team or project.
You Have To Win The Support Of Others
Even if you are the best leader around, there is a real limit to what you can achieve working in isolation. You have to win hearts and minds if you are going to achieve anything significant.
You Spend More Time Moving Things Forward Than Keeping Things Running
This for me is one the big distinctions in terms of leadership compared to management. In leadership a much larger part of your time is spent on planning, strategy, managing stakeholder relationships, change and governance.
You Take Bigger Decisions
In other words the stakes are higher and the consequences of making the wrong decisions much more significant.
You Are Accountable
In management there is always a boss who takes the wrap if things don’t go well. In leadership this is much less likely, especially within your own professional discipline.
You Facilitate, Orchestrate and Achieve Results Through Others
People of often assume it’s all about being visionary and charismatic. In reality it’s about making things happen through others.
You Deal With The Difficult Stuff
Even when it might be hard, difficult and potentially make you unpopular.
The Bottom Line: While there will always be differences depending on organisation size and complexity, there is in my view some fundamental differences between leadership and management.
So are you in leadership or management?
Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.