In business, it is commonly accepted that the manager is the leader of the business. Often we use these words and ideas interchangeably. We assume that one who manages must lead, and that one who is a leader inherently must manage those who follow.
Management is about tasks and processes, whereas leadership is about people and vision.
When looking to buy a business, it is important to recognise that both are essential to any successful operation. However, without understanding what distinguishes the two ideas and roles, it is difficult to ensure that your business will be both well-managed and effectively led.
20th century French engineer Henri Fayol devised the five principles of management, which are still true today. These are built around the completion of day-to-day tasks and ensuring that the business keeps chugging along.
Control – Ensuring that all happens as it should within the set structure and model of command.
However, while these steps may enable a business to run, they do not ensure any revolution or improvement. And in the face of an ever-changing operating environment, sometimes just managing an operation is not enough to ensure its survival.
A manager will ensure that the train stays moving, but the leader will guide it along the tracks.
In 2014, Harvard Business Review conducted a study of over 330,000 professionals at all levels to understand what skills people need not only to manage, but to lead. Interestingly, several skills came out on top across the board. Listed here in order of importance for supervisors or middle-managers, the top characteristics needed to lead an organisation or team are:
What differentiates these from the management skills listed above is a focus on people and the bigger picture. A leader often looks beyond the here and now towards a future of possibilities. This vision inspires and motivates employees. Combined with strategic competency and an authentic interest in others in the organisation, a great leader is more than just a manager.
Ultimately, however, a combination of both skills is needed to successfully run and grow a business. While it may seem easier to start a business alone, collaborating with others may provide the best foundation to ensure that an operation is being driven by competent management and effective leadership.