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Management or Leadership – which do I need?

Managers are often tasked with demonstrating leadership in their role. Telling someone to be more of a leader can however be confusing. What is management? What is leadership? Why do managers need to lead? Why do leaders need to also manage?

Many researchers, academics and theorists have put forward a variety of definitions of management and leadership – what they mean, and what is the difference between these two terms. While the definitions are interesting, practically speaking, it is more useful to know which attributes to use when. Otherwise it can be confusing to know where your role sits and which skillset to draw from in any given situation. You may need to use techniques from both.

On our training programmes, participants find it helpful to describe the different approaches for leadership or management by relating them to separate responsibilities. In this blog we look at three responsibilities and which management/leadership attributes to use for each.


Management Leadership
Detail and sequence Overview and result

For example:

You’re a Development Manager at a charity. You’re in the first stages of working on a capital campaign. The role of the manager here is to decide what to do, how the resources are going to be used, and what order the tasks will happen in. You are responsible for the people involved, managing their input and all the tasks that go into a project like this.

The leadership role here is about big picture – how does the campaign fit in with organisational / department goals and strategy? How will you measure the result?

So in this scenario – and many like it – the Development Manager needs to be combining management and leadership in their planning.


Management Leadership
Risk assess and rational Challenge and intuitive

For example:

You’re a Manager of a newly set up food bank. There is an increase in covid cases in your area and your team are worried. You need to assess the risks, both to your team and services users. This requires logical thinking: assessing what could go wrong, how likely that is to happen, and what impact that would have. You need to be rational and use critical thinking to work out the right course of action.

You also need to use your experience here. There are plenty of unknowns – where logic can only get you so far. There may be many options you can see, but no one right way forward. Your team need reassurance and decisions from you. This means using your intuition to make a decision about the way forward, and communicating that to them. You will need to feel comfortable challenging where you feel it’s necessary and have the skills to ensure this lands in the best way, aiming for understanding and resolution. As above, you have to keep the big picture in mind.


Management Leadership
Advise, support and supervise Coach, motivate and encourage

For example:

You are Communications Manager at a charity. You manage a team of 3, who in turn manage others. As a people manager it is your role to provide regular advice, direction, encouragement and support to your direct reports based on their specific needs. You have regular check ins and one-to-ones where you go into detail about the person’s day to day responsibilities and how they’re doing. You supervise their work, reviewing and feeding back as often as needed, managing their performance.

At other times, as Communications Manager you may have leadership responsibilities towards the people you’re working with. Your direct reports may be brilliantly skilled and experienced in their technical areas, and therefore need you to be their coach and champion them in other areas of their role. You are also likely to be working with people you don’t directly manage but still need them to deliver results. For example, you are the project sponsor of a project overhauling the digital communications at your charity, and the project manager is not your direct report. It’s not your responsibility to get involved at a minute level with the project, that’s the manager’s role. Your skills lie in coaching the project manager – using coaching skills to jointly figure out next steps while letting the manager retain ownership of the tasks. You motivate them by ensuring they understand how the project relates to bigger picture strategy within the organisation.

What’s next?

To find out more, join us on the Transformational Leadership programme where you’ll explore the differences between leadership and management in detail, and the skills needed to effectively lead others.

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Charlotte Scott

About Charlie Scott

Charlie specialises in leadership development, team facilitation and strategy development. Charlie worked for over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector. Before joining =mc ten years ago, she created and...