Leadership vs. Management: 5 Tips to Become a Better Leader

Featured Image: Illustration of jagged mountain peaks, with a flag on the top of the highest one

Leadership and management—these two distinct elements are vital to any company’s success. And yet, they're often mistakenly conflated. After all, a manager can also be a leader, but an effective leader might not have a fancy title.

While managers and leaders often share similar skills, it’s important to understand their fundamental differences to help your business succeed. Otherwise, you run the risk of granting authority to people who may not be able to accomplish what you've envisioned.

For instance, a manager who thinks these two concepts are equivalent may feel confused when their title doesn’t automatically inspire devotion and frustrated when projects take longer than estimated or don’t meet their expectations. And while they might blame inefficient processes or a lack of respect, a little leadership development could go a long way.

Businesses use employee experience and performance tools to set the stage for honest, two-way communication and solve problems before they become insurmountable. With BambooHR® in your corner, you can nurture your employees’ wellbeing and cement your organization as a great place to work. Read on to learn how to become a better leader and why it matters.

What Is Management?

Management has the authority to plan, organize, and direct operations and employees to accomplish company goals. Managers coordinate an organization's efforts at different levels, establishing a structured work environment that helps employees work efficiently.

They do this by creating objectives, budgets, schedules, and strategies to boost performance and productivity—all while complying with company policies and industry regulations. Additionally, managers train staff members and may step in to resolve customer issues.

Management Styles

While different management styles come with unique pros and cons, they all aim to boost employee performance and advance the company's mission. Common approaches include the collaborative democratic style, the autonomous laissez-faire style, and the micromanaging autocratic style.

Take the autocratic manager, for example. This person prioritizes efficiency and results, making decisions entirely on their own to maintain order and prioritize action. However, this style may not be ideal for every organization. The lack of employee autonomy, creativity, and collaboration can result in lower morale and increased turnover.

Get the Definitive Guide to Company Culture

A vibrant company culture which supports and nurtures employees—and helps your organization achieve its goals. Created by BambooHR experts, our guide offers a step-by-step plan for leveling up your company culture.

Download Your Free Copy

What Is Leadership?

Leadership, on the other hand, is the ability to inspire and motivate people to achieve a shared vision. It’s not power, although leadership can make an individual very powerful. It’s not formal authority, either, although showing strong leadership can often lead to a position of authority. Leadership is a personal quality that some people seem to have innately, but that anyone can develop within themselves. And a good leader has the potential to accomplish more than someone with equal or even greater authority.

Leadership Styles

Just like management, there are several leadership styles to choose from based on your personality, strengths, and company culture. Common methods include the innovative transformational style, the personalized coaching style, and the servant leadership style.

What would some of these approaches look like in action? Like a sports coach, some leaders nurture each employee’s talents to help them reach their full professional potential. In comparison, servant leaders put the holistic needs of the team before their own objectives to benefit the greater good and act based on empathy and moral values.

Leader vs. Manager

There’s no scientific formula to compare a leader vs. a manager, but think of it this way:

Being a manager doesn’t inherently grant you devotion, nor does it automatically inspire those around you. It only gives you the power to enforce your directions. But a good leader doesn’t need that power—they simply set the example for people to follow. Managers typically give orders and observe, while leaders can be found in the middle of the effort, encouraging their colleagues, solving issues, and shouldering responsibility. Leaders champion group effort and advocate on behalf of the team in the face of criticism.

Management is the position; leadership is the character of the player.

Leadership Skills vs. Management Skills

Both leaders and managers set a course for others to follow, so their skills may overlap. But one key difference is leaders work toward a long-term vision using primarily soft skills, while managers focus on the day-to-day using technical skills.

For instance, a restaurant manager may be focused on training the wait staff and ensuring the kitchen staff efficiently fulfills the customers’ orders. Meanwhile, the restaurant owner may be working on advertising strategies or building relationships with other nearby businesses with hopes of catering for their corporate events in the future.

5 Tips to Help You Become a Better Leader

So, let’s say you’re in charge of a team. You have authority, and you have the power to enforce it. But like many newly minted managers, you might have been put in charge based on your performance, not your leadership skills. How can you inspire people to do great work? Try being a leader instead of only their boss. Here are some ways to do that:

1. Relinquish the Throne

Instead of giving orders from on high, take responsibility for the team’s mission and ask for their help as you work toward your collective goal. Rather than passively observing, participate. Jump in with both feet and make your work the benchmark, then help others reach it.

2. Teach What You Know

Presumably, you were given your authority thanks in part to your experience and knowledge. Use your knowledge to inspire and empower employees, not as a way to establish superiority. Think of information as a force multiplier instead of a finite resource. Spreading knowledge doesn’t weaken you—it makes the whole team more powerful and effective.

Included. Supported. Retained.

Don't leave your company culture to chance. With accurate, reliable employee surveys in BambooHR, you'll gain the insight you need to prevent burnout, improve morale, and stop premature turnover in its tracks.

Get a Free Demo Today

3. Be Humble

You don’t have all the answers, and you can’t do all the work yourself. Furthermore, if you think you can fake humility as a leader, you can’t—people can tell. When your team completes a project, you may be tempted to take credit. Don’t. You’ll get enough credit—more, in fact—if you highlight the group effort. Plus, your team will appreciate the recognition. When a problem comes your way, ask your team for advice before you make a decision. Then, make the decision and explain why you did it.

4. Give and Take Feedback Constantly

Leaders know they aren’t perfect, and they understand that nobody else is perfect, either. That’s why great leaders ask for and embrace employee feedback. Leaders also know that constant feedback, delivered correctly, is the best way to encourage good work, provide guidance, and create connections with their teammates.

5. Create Lasting, Two-Way Relationships

Effective leaders know and love their people. When the time comes for swift action, the example they’ve set and the relationships they’ve built allow them to direct with authority, because they’ve earned that authority through mutual respect. The people who work with a true leader trust that their best interests are being accounted for, and that trust gives them the confidence to work hard and be creative.

Don’t expect to lead simply because someone gave you a title or some authority. The best thing you can do is forget the title and work alongside your colleagues. If you earn the respect and trust of your team, you’ll become their leader, and the title will return to you as a gift. Remember, management is just the position. Leadership is the character of the player.

Gather Powerful Insights, Create a Better Employee Experience

Don't leave your company culture to chance. With accurate, reliable employee surveys in BambooHR, you'll gain the insight you need to prevent burnout, improve morale, and stop premature turnover in its tracks.

Get a Free Demo Today