The difference between management and leadership

For managers to be effective, they need to realize that part of their job is to be a leader.

“Manager is more than a title,” says Edward C. Hopson, CBA, managing principal and founder of Hopson Communications and Coaching. “They’re required to lead people, which means demonstrating the skills and attributes that encourage people to follow them.”

It means being someone employees respect, who can address disagreements with more than, “because I’m the boss.” But too often, organizations appoint managers who do little more than manage a process — resources, inventory, deliverables — rather than lead people. In some cases, managers are just proctors for higher-ups who can’t be everywhere at once. They’re not prepared to handle the people part of the job.

Smart Business spoke with Hopson about the difference between leading and managing, how this affects an organization and what companies can do to address the issue.

What is the effect on an organization when leadership and management intersect?

When a manager is also a leader, productivity goes up dramatically. People who are working for a leader tend to go beyond the duties outlined in their job description to do what needs to be done. They have an emotional commitment to doing a good job, an emotional tie to the team or the organization that pushes them.

People who are inspired by a manager’s leadership tend to have a deeper commitment to achieving goals — whether departmental or organizational. They’re more bought-in to the mission and the vision and they work to make it come true.

When a manager is more process driven and struggles with people leadership, those they manage tend to see the work they do as only a job. They stick to their role and are more likely to do only what’s necessary, rather than expend any extra effort. A group that’s uninspired isn’t likely to feel any loyalty to their department or organization. And because the job might be little more than a paycheck, they could chase another opportunity just for an increase in pay.

How does an organization help its managers be leaders?

Leadership starts with the person — a manager has to have the right personality to manage people. But equal to that, an organization’s leadership traits become embedded into the culture, and managers, from the top down. Company executives who operate with the mindset that they, and by extension the organization, are first and foremost about people, have little trouble getting buy-in to the vision. And that’s critical. When an organization is able to achieve that by every executive living it through their actions, everything else falls into place. Employees experience that people-first mindset as something that’s woven into the culture.

How is leadership experienced by employees?

A leader needs to be in tune with the needs of the people they manage just as much as they need to be in tune with the organization’s mission. When people are treated as individuals, they feel as if they’re more than just cogs in a wheel. That means making exceptions, for example, being flexible with someone who needs to pick up their child from school, or adjusting a pay and commission arrangement to help someone who’s worked hard over the years get through a challenging time. When employees experience that, values don’t need to be written down and recited for it to show up in behavior across the organization.

Employees work hard for someone if they believe that they’re on their side and they have their best interest at heart. It’s been said, and it often rings true, that people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. By living a people-centered culture, showing the organization’s values through action, people are likely not only to stay on board, but buy in to the vision.

There are lots of jobs available today and good employees are often able to take their pick. If an employee doesn’t feel any connection to their team or the organization — that they’re replaceable — they’ll leave for a place where they feel valued. ●

INSIGHTS Leadership is brought to you by Hopson Communications & Coaching, LLC

Edward C. Hopson

Managing Principal & Founder


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