Management versus Leadership: Bringing out the best in your employees

Benjamin Kluwgant · 01 Jul

Regardless of the industry, every team within an organisation needs someone to steer them in the right direction. That’s what high-quality management is all about

In order for teams to perform well, they need managers – and depending on the environment, different styles of management have proven to be more effective than others.

This idea of people needing to be guided by managers is as old as the hills. On a macro level, cities, states and countries have historically distanced themselves from anarchy and have instead elected to be led by governments. On a micro level, people within companies and organisations have always needed a manager to drive group cohesion and inspire productivity.

The question is though – where exactly do these nuances between the different management styles lie, and how does upper-management know if they are bringing on the right type of team-leader?

Leading your team to the (subjective) promised land

Before diving into what these nuances within management styles are, it is important to set the record straight right from the outset: There is no such thing as a right or wrong style of management.

The objective of a leader is to take their team to the ‘promised land’ – and for each team, that destination can mean something entirely different. The most important part of managing a team is knowing which style of management is most appropriate.

Are the terms ‘leadership’ and ‘management’ interchangeable?

When discussing the different concepts of management, it’s quite common to see the terms ‘manager’ and ‘leader’ used synonymously. In fact, you may not have even noticed but even in this article the terms have been used loosely.

What many people don’t know is that when used correctly, these two titles refer to two fundamentally different ways to head up a team.

If you can manage (pun intended) to wrap your head around the difference between these two concepts, the rest is pretty much self-explanatory.

Management – a task-oriented approach

Managers are people who have taken on the responsibility to run a group with one primary objective: Getting the job done.

The primary concern of a Manager is the organisation rather than the team. They have (or are given) a set of outcomes that need to be achieved and are focused on ensuring that those outcomes are delivered adequately.

Areas like quality control, team relationships, and human interaction are generally quite unimportant to a Manager. For them, it’s all about the task at hand. Their approach towards their team is to simply push them along the journey that takes the organisation to where it needs to be.

Leadership – a people-oriented approach

Leaders are a totally different kettle of fish. While they do have task-based outcomes that need to be delivered, their focus is placed almost entirely on the toolkit and resources they have been given in order to achieve those results.

In other words, they are concerned about the human element of the journey as well.

Instead of dragging the group towards achieving the intended results, Leaders tend to bring their teams into an environment of productivity, harmony, and symbiosis. In the eyes of a true Leader, the people aren’t just a means to get a job done. Leaders believe that the way people are treated heavily influences the quality of the outcome.

Both approaches have their own pros and cons and each of them can be effective when deployed in the right environment.

The makings of a good manager or leader

It doesn’t matter whether they take the task-oriented or people-oriented approach ­– good leaders (using the term loosely again) can be spotted from a mile away. They tend to have a suite of character traits that separate them from others.

More specifically, if you’re looking to hire an all-star leader, here are some traits that you should be looking out for:

  • Honesty and integrity – these are by far the most important traits in leadership. If you can’t trust that your team leaders are working with integrity, then you’re going to be in for a world of ethical challenges.
  • Drive and self-confidence – a leader who backs themselves with ambition and poise is normally one that will deliver at a very high level.
  • Industry knowledge and experience ­­– good leaders should know be experts in their field with years of experience to back that expertise up.
  • Creativity ­­– being able to consistently think outside of the box and encouraging others to do the same is normally a sign of a leader in the making.
  • Ability to interpret and articulate new information ­– understanding and adapting to new and complex pieces of information is a key part of quality leadership.

Considering the above, it’s important to keep in mind that finding the full-package is almost impossible. It doesn’t matter how talented they might seem to be, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

When looking for the right person to come on board as a company leader, as long as they have a few of the traits that were mentioned above, you can rest assured that they will come up with the goods.

Fiedler’s Model of Leadership – identifying the right person to lead your team

While leadership character traits are a fundamental part of separating the good from the excellent, it is just as important that the individuality and style of the team leader gels nicely with the team’s situational demands.

In the 1960s, world-renowned Austrian researcher and psychologist Fred Fiedler identified that leadership styles are very difficult to change, and different teams require different types of leaders.

According to the findings of Fiedler’s research, if you can identify a manager whose style of leadership matches the needs of your team, the team is likely to run as a well-oiled machine.

Finding talent might be difficult but identifying the right people to lead that talent is even harder. There is plenty to consider before taking on a team-leader – but if the person you choose is right for the team, they are far more likely to achieve top results.