Recently, an HBR blog titled “The 3 Differences Between Managers and Leaders” outlined the three key differences as excerpted below:
COUNTING VALUE VS. CREATING VALUE
You’re probably counting value, not adding it, if you’re managing people. Only managers count value; some even reduce value by disabling those who add value.
By contrast, leaders focus on creating value, saying: “I’d like you to handle A while I deal with B.” He or she generates value over and above that which the team creates, and is as much a value-creator as his or her followers are. Leading by example and leading by enabling people are the hallmarks of action-based leadership.
CIRCLES OF INFLUENCE VS. CIRCLES OF POWER
Just as managers have subordinates and leaders have followers, managers create circles of power while leaders create circles of influence.
The quickest way to figure out which of the two you’re doing is to count the number of people outside your reporting hierarchy who come to you for advice. The more people who do, the more likely it is that you are perceived to be a leader.
LEADING PEOPLE VS. MANAGING WORK
Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.
Based on the work we do with leaders, I would add 3 more key differences between managers and leaders to this great list:
DESCRIBING WHY VS. EXPLAINING HOW
Often when delegating, managers will explain what and how things should get done. Leaders do far less of this and instead describe why something is important or why it’s required in order to give their followers the big picture and vision.
DOING THE RIGHT THINGS VS. DOING THINGS RIGHT
This is a great quote about leadership and gets to the essence of the differences between managers and leaders. Managers tend to focus on control and doing things “right” according to standards, expectations, requirements, rules, etc. Leaders focus less on the implementation details and more on the end results by steering their teams to the most productive and impactful ends.
LETTING PEOPLE FAIL VS. CAUTIOUSLY LEADING OTHERS
Managers tend to be most concerned about making mistakes and proceed cautiously with regard to delegating, deciding, and risk-taking. Leaders understand the importance of people making mistakes in order to learn. Leaders empower others to tackle issues and opportunities in their own way while fully realizing mistakes may be made and they encourage learning and development based on these mistakes.
Just ask yourself how you rate yourself as a manager or leader and identify any gaps. Create your own personal action plan to change your approach to help build your leadership potential. It’s all about balance. You have to master both management and leadership skills and know when to emphasize one over the other. It’s the balance of these skills that you have to get right in order to be successful in your context. The lower the position is in the organization, then the more “managing” skills are required, so be prepared as you move into more senior level roles to really change this balance to incorporate much more leadership skills.