Do you understand the differences between leadership and management? A lot of my clients come to me without this understanding and as we unpack their experience, we often find that they’ve been taking more of a management approach – but calling it “leadership” – and then struggling to articulate their skills in this area. In this episode I’m breaking down the differences and talking about why both management and leadership are important.

Links I mentioned in this episode:

41. Leadership vs Management – Transcript

[00:00:00] Hi, there I’m Bec McFarland the host of the Pop Your Career Podcast. As a career coach, I’m most passionate about helping my clients to discover their own personal flavour of career fulfillment. In this podcast, we are going to be exploring ways that you too can feel more fulfilled by your work. So strap yourself in, get ready for the ride. The tips around here are fast and in abundance.

[00:00:29] Hello. Hello. It is Bec McFarland here helping you do better and be better in your career. Today I wanted to talk to you about leadership, or more specifically, I wanted to talk to you about the difference between leadership and management, why this is important, and how you can go about articulating your own specific skills.

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[00:01:46] I was inspired to talk about this topic lately because of the fact that I was actually delivering a module about leadership versus management for my business coaching clients, talking specifically about leadership versus management in small [00:02:00] business, but it really does apply in every type of business. So what is the difference?

[00:02:06] I have a lot of clients come to me and they talk about leadership, and when I ask them like, what does that actually mean? They supply me with a whole list of things that they do, and most of them fall into the management category. There is a big difference between the two.

[00:02:22] So for me and the way that I define it, it is that management is more about like the day-to-day tasks. It’s more about operations. Management is more about the way that you would delegate tasks to somebody, perhaps the way that you train, that you provide feedback, the way that you make sure that work is getting done on a day-to-day basis. This could include things like approving leave forms or time sheets, all of that kind of operationally needed stuff.

[00:02:50] Now, on the other hand, I see leadership as being more about the future. So this is where we are thinking about how we are going to build the capability of our [00:03:00] team, how we are going to ensure that we improve moving forward. It could be what the vision is of the organization, how we are.

[00:03:07] As a collaborative towards our overall objectives or it could be looking at the way that we support our team and see them as individual people, as well as part of the bigger picture.

[00:03:23] As you can see, leadership, as I mentioned, is more future focused, whereas management tends to be a little bit more focused on the present. So you’re looking at what is happening today.

[00:03:36] So why is this important? Well, a lot of organizations are going to be focused on employing really good leaders. They are going to be interested in making sure that the people that they bring on board have got really good leadership skills, and during an interview process or an application process, it is really up to you to be able to articulate your skills and explain [00:04:00]why your leadership skills are so great, or your management skills for that matter.

[00:04:04] What I find is that, as I mentioned, when clients come to me and we start talking about leadership or management, is that they tend to throw around those buzzwords and they might say, you know, I’m a really good leader, or, you know, I’ve managed teams. And again, when I come back to them and say like, what does that actually mean? That’s when things start to get a little bit blurry.

[00:04:26] Now, leadership and management is not the only place where this happens. I find this happens a lot with lots of different kinds of buzzwords that I think we’ve kind of learned to rely on too much over the years. Things like stakeholder engagement or stakeholder management, even things like communication skills or teamwork, right?

[00:04:46] If you were to ask 10 different people what each of those things meant, you would probably get 10 different responses, and particularly when you are in a situation where you are trying to influence a panel or persuade them that [00:05:00]you are the most ideal candidate for the role, it’s important that you are able to articulate to them what the skills are that you are actually bringing to the table and how they could impact their organization.

[00:05:12] So with these words, these kind of buzzwords or these ambiguous phrases that get thrown around, I often encourage my clients to go ahead and spend a little bit of time doing some defining, and usually the best way to do this is to do a mind map. I love getting out a bit of butcher’s paper and some textas and starting to draw out what this really means.

[00:05:35] So to give you an example of what this might look like, we’re gonna put the main word or main phrase in the center of our mind map, in this case, let’s use the example of leadership. And then from that we want to spring out and look at the different behaviours that might be considered part of your leadership model.

[00:05:53] So this might be something along the lines of a type of leadership style that you’ve heard of. Servant [00:06:00] leadership is one that I often talk about because it’s something that aligns really well with my own values. So I might spring out and leave a point on the butcher’s paper about servant leadership.

[00:06:12] There might also be something about, you know, seeing team members as individuals. I could also have a point about growing individual and team capability. It could be that I have another point about understanding my team members’ individual strengths. I could have another point about understanding my individual team members learning styles, right?

[00:06:37] So you can see that what I’m doing is I’m building out the word leadership and I’m starting to say, okay, as a leader, what are the actual behaviours that I am doing or the further concepts that I’m following in order to make sure that I am the leader that I want to be.

[00:06:54] Now from here, you can continue to build out your mind map, right? Because these things themselves may be still a [00:07:00] bit ambiguous or maybe they deserve to have a little bit more definition. So if it is something like servant leadership, for example, I might then have a point progressing off that, where I talk about the fact that, you know, I consistently ask my team what they require from me in order to get their jobs done right. You can see that that is more of a specific behaviour that we can then tie back to the way that I do leadership.

[00:07:29] You know, in terms of building individual and team capability. It could be that I use a specific skill or talent assessment to understand where the specific gaps are in my team, and then I put together a plan to make sure that everyone is getting the training and support that they need to be able to lift their skills and build that capability.

[00:07:53] So I think this is a really good idea with any of those ambiguous terms that you could be stuffing at your [00:08:00] resume or your interview preparation with. But I would also just really encourage you to have a little bit of a think about what the difference is between leadership and management for you, and how are you articulating this in your interview or in your job application.

[00:08:18] I’ve said this before, but any time that you ask a panel or a panel member to read between the lines or come to any kind of conclusion about you and your skillset, you are potentially leaving yourself open to miscommunication. Panel members are often tired. They have read hundreds of resumes and potentially interviewed quite a lot of people, so perhaps their minds in the moment are not necessarily as sharp as what they are outside.

[00:08:49] They also could be assessing your ability to be able to articulate your skills and your strengths in relation to the specific role that you’re applying for, and therefore they’re [00:09:00] making a conscious decision not to read between the lines or draw conclusions where you have not accurately mapped them out. Either way or for any other reason, I always suggest that you leave it all on a silver platter, whatever it is that you are trying to communicate to the panel, I would just say what you mean and going through this process of mind mapping out some of these broader concepts gives you the language that you need to articulate what it is that you actually do when it comes to a concept or an idea like leadership or management.

[00:09:39] I hope this has been a little bit of food for thought for you and that this is helpful when you are preparing for your next job, application or interview.

[00:09:49] Have a lovely day. I’ll see you soon.

[00:09:51] Thanks so much for listening to the Pop Your Career podcast. I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s tips and that you found value in what I’ve [00:10:00]shared with you. If you like your career advice quick and entertaining, I would love for you to subscribe. Also leave me a rating and a review. If you wanna continue the conversation, come and join me over on social media. You can find me everywhere at Pop Your Career. I’ll see you soon.



About the author 


Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.