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13 Aug

Leadership vs. Management: Understand the Difference

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What does leadership mean to you? Depending on your background, it might sound like an easy question or an incredibly challenging one. As your career grows and you take on new responsibilities, understanding the essential skills of a great leader is key to being successful.

However, many people often get confused about the differences between good leadership and good management. Both skills are required for those looking to move up in their careers, but there are many distinctions between the two that separate those who continue to grow upward in their careers and those who stay stagnant.

What does leadership mean to you? At Seattle University, we know it can be challenging to ask yourself that question. We also know that understanding the key differences between management and leadership is the best place to start.

The difference between leadership vs. management

The role of manager is a specific one. Being the person who runs your team or department means having the right management skills to keep projects running smoothly, hitting all of the right deadlines, and making sure everyone on your team is meeting the requirements for their position. Keeping a team on track and successful is no easy feat and requires organizational skills. These management skills are the first step in becoming a great leader and are essential for a great team.

When you go past basic management skills, you enter a much more complex space where your main responsibility is not a deadline. Leaders need to have a vision of where their team goes next. For a leader, it is no longer about matching last year’s goals again, but instead finding ways for your team to better approach problems and new opportunities for growth.

Another way to see the difference between a leader and a manager is imagining yourself as one of your employees. How does it feel to be assigned a task? It can feel rote if you’re just following a well-worn blueprint for a project or assigned strict guidelines to follow. In comparison, a leader delegates responsibility to their employees. This gives them the opportunity to take ownership of the project, to listen to new research or voices, and to grow more themselves. Both approaches get the job accomplished, but one can make a direct report feel like a cog in a machine, while the other empowers an employee and opens the door to smarter and better work in the future.

Why is leadership important?

Management is about day-to-day operations, completing projects on time and making sure everyone knows their responsibility. Some see it as maintaining the status quo.1

Leadership is important because it can be the foundation of innovation and long-term, successful strategies. Getting caught up in the grind means missing opportunities that could transform your team, department, and company for the better. Employees see the difference between a manager and a leader, and for them, it can be the difference between just doing their jobs and being motivated to go further.

A leader also has the skills to adapt when things do not go as planned. Sometimes unforeseen problems arise or new regulations mean that your workflow gets turned on its head, and a leader who understands how to be flexible to changing goals and priorities is an absolute necessity in maintaining long-term success.

How do you develop leadership skills?

It can be easy to decide you are ready to be a leader and start implementing the change you think should happen. That will easily be a big step in the wrong direction.

A great place to start can be by listening to those on your team. They might offer advice about good experiences with previous employers or have a better understanding of some of the issues you might not be seeing. Even other managers in your organization can give you insight into company culture and new strategies that have been successfully implemented.

There are a number of graduate programs and professional development courses that teach essential management skills like communication and motivation. Gaining the skills and insights to be a leader, however, requires a more well-rounded experience. You need a better understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses as well as a framework for making smarter decisions and developing successful, long-term strategies.

Gain true leadership skills at Seattle U

A successful leader has a strong mastery of project management, goal-setting, and other essential management skills. However, a true leader has the decision-making and strategic skill sets to motivate their team while navigating them toward greater vision.

Those earning their Online MBA at Seattle University will find those necessary skills as well as an understanding of how to reach the big picture goals. While in our MS in Business Analytics program, online students learn more than just the technical side of data analytics: They learn how to translate that data to create and communicate their strategies.

Learn more about how the Online MBA curriculum and the MSBA curriculum sets Seattle U graduates up for successful and meaningful careers.


1 Retrieved on July 21, 2020 from forbes.com/sites/williamarruda/2016/11/15/9-differences-between-being-a-leader-and-a-manager/#5c55fea04609