Many people quickly assume that being a good leader means you're a good manager and vice versa. The two concepts are actually quite distinct and understanding that distinction can help you understand what it means to be good at either or good at both.

What are the Key Characteristics of Management?

From a broad perspective, management is smaller scale and more focused on details than leadership. The leader sets the vision and the broad plan, the manager executes it and does what is needed to achieve that plan. Key characteristics of management are:
  • A tactical focus on aspects of the organization's strategy
  • Executing on specific areas within their responsibilities
  • Formulating and enforcing the policies of a business to achieve its goals
  • Directing and monitoring their team to achieve their specific goals
  • Management and containment of risks in an organization
  • Short term focus with attention to the details

What are the Key Characteristics of Leadership?

Leadership is setting the tone of an organization, the broad objectives and long term goals will come from the leader, and then managers need to execute on a plan to attain them. Leadership is not necessarily getting caught up in all the details but rather setting the plan and inspiring people to follow them. Key characteristics of leadership are:
  • Strategic focus on the organization's needs
  • Establishing goals and the strategic direction
  • Establishing principles
  • Empowering and mentoring the team to lead them to their goals
  • Risk engagement and overall identification
  • Long term, high level focus

Which is more important?

Any organization or business needs people who are good at both leadership and management if they are going to succeed. With good management and poor leadership they will be able to execute everything very well, but will be doing so without a consistent direction and overall strategy. With good leadership and poor management a company will have the goals and inspiration to succeed, but no one to execute the plan on how to get there.

Emphasis needs to be placed equally on both areas if an organization wants to thrive.

Can someone do both?

Good leaders and good managers are not often the same person, the few people that excel at both tend to be overwhelmingly successful in achieving their goals. Management and leadership skills are in some ways very opposite from one another, short vs. long term, big picture vs. detail oriented, etc. It can be very difficult for one to split their time between the two and excel at both. Often organizations that succeed have a mix of individuals, some who excel at leadership and some who excel at management.

While it's good for anyone to clearly understand which they excel at more, being aware of the other characteristics is important. Just knowing what it takes to be a good leader can make you more aware of yourself even if you know you tend to be an excellent manager. Understanding the differences between leadership and. management can ensure you see where you can improve and what else you should be thinking about, and not assume you are simply excellent at both. Ultimately this can make you both a better leader and a better manager.