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Leadership vs Management: How to Improve Your Leadership Skills

In the business world, leadership and management are sometimes treated as interchangeable terms. In reality, these are two very different concepts that require specific management training and leadership skills. No business can have a high rate of success without the vision of leaders and the practical skills of managers.

While these are two distinct categories, both are of vital importance for executives today. In order to have a successful business with engaged employees, you must learn to be both a manager and a leader. So how can you improve your leadership skills? Read on to understand more about leadership vs. management and how you can work to improve both sets of skills as an executive.

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How are leadership and management different?

While the terms "leadership" and "management" seem to apply to executives (which they do), if you have just one person reporting to you you need to be both a leader and a manager to be most effective.

Leadership is characterised by those charismatic individuals who have excellent abilities to rally people towards their vision. Their overarching concern is towards the people subordinate to them and helping them understand the vital role they play within the company. They are able to motivate and inspire employees by creating change, taking risks, and appealing to the company's ideals. A leader focuses on the big picture and the overarching vision for the company while not focusing on the details of how things get done.

Managing is typically understood as coming in and handling the details and tasks that need to get done on a day to day basis. Less concerned with inspiring employees by big picture thinking, managers are focused on the things and tasks that need to be accomplished to increase the bottom line. Being an effective leader means incorporating the day to day tasks of managing with the big picture focus of inspiration. A great leader can create change in a company while also implementing the details and the process necessary to carry out that change. Those who aspire to improve their leadership skills need to have the detailed focus of a manager along with the ability to inspire and motivate their subordinates. 

What leadership skills should I focus on?

Good leaders and managers are able to look at their skill set and identify where their strengths and weaknesses are. If you see that you lean towards manager tendencies, see where you can incorporate inspiration and big picture thinking into your workplace. If you are more of a leader, notice where you can help the daily tasks and processes get going to fulfill your visions.

As you move up the corporate ladder, the emphasis falls more on having the right leadership skills, instead of being able to manage well. To improve your leadership skills, pay careful to your interactions to the people around you who report to you (and why not also enrol in our free leadership course). Practice coaching and actively listening to them while exuding a sense of confidence and self-esteem. Create a vision for your company and consider how what you do on a daily basis affects the big picture. Leadership skills are soft skills that can be developed through deliberate practice and careful attention.

Can I be trained in leadership skills?

While some people seem to be born innate leaders with followers from the time they were in elementary school, leadership skills can be a learned trait as well. A primary task is changing your mindset from that of a manager to that of a leader. You must understand the difference in the tasks for a leader vs. a manager and respond accordingly. Learn to shift your mindset from the daily tasks to the overarching ideals and goals of your organization and approach your work with this mindset.

How can executive coaching develop leaders?

Successful companies around the world are beginning to look toward executive coaching to improve the leadership skills of their executives, and job hunters use them to hone their skills as they work through a career transition. The goal of executive coaching is to help you become the best leader and executive you can be. A combination of therapy and strategic planning, executive coaching helps you to uncover your strengths and weaknesses as an individual and as an executive.

There are many advantages to using executive coaching to develop your leadership skills. Talking with your coach allows you to learn new things about yourself and the areas in which you can improve as a leader and a person. This outside perspective gives you an awareness of your blind spots. You begin to uncover things you may have never seen that are holding you back or a source of untapped potential. The therapy aspect of coaching gives executives a space to feel heard and have emotional support and encouragement in a position that can sometimes feel a bit lonely.

Besides the emotional and psychological benefits of executive coaching, you are also able to focus on specific leadership skills that you would like to improve. Having an executive coach gives you direction, encouragement, and accountability in your efforts to reach your goals. Whether you are interested in being a better listener, working on your charisma and persuasion, or focusing on encouraging your team, an executive coach works with you to build the leadership skills that you need to strengthen the most. This will help you avoid commiting any of the 5 dysfunctions of a team, and your team members too (as they will be following in your effective foot steps).

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The men and women who lead businesses to success have to possess a specific set of leadership skills in order to achieve the goals they desire. But the good news is twofold. You can improve your weaknesses through practice and perseverance, and you don't have to do it on your own. If you are interested in improving your leadership skills through executive coaching, contact us today and we can help you focus on the attributes you need to be a successful leader.

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Ryan Bonnici

Ryan Bonnici

Ryan Bonnici is the Senior Director of Global Marketing at HubSpot. He’s an experienced digital marketing leader having held roles previously at Salesforce, ExactTarget, Microsoft and Qantas Airways. He's an experienced digital marketing consultant having worked with a wide range of businesses from thermal clothing sales to executive coaching services. For more frequent updates, follow him on Facebook (@growthguy) or Twitter (@ryanbonnici)