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Management vs. Leadership: What are the Main Differences?

November 1, 2022

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A group of coworkers sit around a table, all of their attention on their manager.
How can you harness the effects of management vs. leadership?

Cultivating fundamental skills as a leader is no small feat. Managers often find themselves in tricky situations as they hold their employees accountable in their day-to-day work. They toe a fine line between a management and leadership position. The difference between the two roles is often subtle.

The truth is, it takes a special person to step up as a leader. Being in a managerial position does not necessarily make someone a natural leader. The same is true on the other end of the spectrum. Even if someone’s title does not suggest management, it doesn’t make them less of a leader. So what does it take to become a leader, and is it the same as management? And can a person be both? The answer is nuanced.

Management vs. Leadership: The Difference is Subtle

Both leadership and management positions are necessary components of a successful work structure. Although someone doesn’t necessarily have to be a leader to be in a manager’s role, the best ones are both. To break down the subtle differences between management vs. leadership, we must define each role.

Managers supervise their employees’ day-to-day work. They delegate tasks, create assignments, organize important data, and oversee operations. Managers are tasked with challenging decisions, like who to hire and fire, and how to properly compensate their workers. Managers can empower their employees to make sound decisions. They are in service to the company at large.

Leaders highlight the importance of the big-picture. A leader inspires, guides, and acts as a source of strength for a group of individuals. In times of uncertainty, fear, rapid change, or expansion, leaders are way-showers for their teams. A good leader knows how to draw out the positive attributes of those around them. Leaders foster growth in any environment they are placed in. 

These elusive differences between leadership and management are what often get conflated in a work environment. Management also suggests a particular power dynamic. Managers are in a place of power and authority over other employees. Those in managerial positions are often incredibly skilled at operations and organization. They know how to delegate and make split decisions. Management takes skill. 

However, as many of us in the workforce know, not all managers lead with grace. This begs the question: how many natural-born leaders never make it to managerial positions, and why? Toeing the line between leadership and management is a tricky distinction.

How to Toe the Line Between Leadership vs. Management

Managers usually have certain objectives when overseeing the daily operations of their workplace. This is simply a fact, and for good reason, too. There are goals to meet, tasks to fulfill, and an end-game to achieve. Managing your team is one thing, but there’s also the matter of leading them, too. In these subtle distinctions, we can discover examples that distinguish a leader from a manager:

Leading By Example

Because managers are in a position of authority, employees will often turn toward them in times of uncertainty. However, a manager may not always embody their role as a leader. Leaders, however, will embody positive characteristics through their example. This could look like speaking up in a meeting when something is unjust. It could also look like encouraging coworkers to take risks for the betterment of the company.

Mentoring Employees

It’s one thing to deliver demands to a team. It’s another to actively mentor your team. Highlighting the strengths of those around you, offering them positive solutions, and teaching your employees new skills are all leadership qualities. Instead of correcting or micromanaging your employees, a leader chooses to mentor them.

A Manager vs. a Leader, The Choice is Yours

At ASAP, we hold our burgeoning leaders in high regard. We offer comprehensive training for administrative professionals and executive assistants. If you’re looking to claim your role as a leader, we invite you to explore some of our training resources.


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