Leadership v Management

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Posted: 8th Apr 2021

Leadership v Management

Leadership is what the military train for but is it the skill most sought after by employers? How do you use your leadership training to sell yourself to future civilian employers?

A recent OA study carried out by Professor Matt Flynn and Dr Chris Ball from the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce (CROW) identified a significant mismatch between the skills Service leavers say they have to offer and what employers say they need. Many Service leavers believe their most important skill is leadership, yet only 10% of employers said that leadership skills are what they need.

Leadership is not the same as management; we know it intuitively but often don’t understand the difference. Leadership and management are two separate functions and leaders, and managers are not the same people. They adopt alternative approaches to problem-solving, undertake different functions within the organisation, and exhibit dissimilar behaviours within the workplace. Although different, the terms ‘manager’ and ‘leader’ are often used interchangeably.

A considerable amount of research has gone into this subject from philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato to modern-day authors such as Cotter, Pfeffer and Covey. Published research on leadership goes back millennia but management research is relatively new.

For some, leadership and management are two different employee supervision styles used in the business world, whereas others believe they are complementary, each with its own functional and characteristic activities. There is a vague feeling in business that managing is bureaucratic and mundane, looking after day-to-day activities but leading is special and undertaken by the key people in an organisation.

The main difference between leaders and managers is people: leaders have people that follow them while managers have people who work with and for them.

As OA Career Consultant Fiona Jackson says, “Leaders set direction and strategy supported by management information such as sales figures/budgets/staffing levels/KPIs/outputs etc. However, leaders must make decisions that are financially viable and ensure an organisation is fit for the future and not just the present day. A leader should always be looking ahead - ‘horizon scanning’ in military terms.”

A good manager's characteristics include executing a vision, establishing and operating working practices, and providing direction. Great managers are people-focused.

There are key characteristics that contribute to good leadership; honesty and integrity; vision; inspiration – the ability to inspire people; confidence to challenge the status quo and strong communication skills. Skills military people have in abundance.

For small organisations with few employees, the challenge lies in both leading and managing the day-to-day operations. In larger organisations, to provide the very best service to clients, you must engage your staff in your vision and align their perceptions and behaviours. It helps if you can get them excited about where you are taking the organisation whilst ensuring they know how they will each benefit.

For Service leavers and military veterans, OA Career Consultant Lisa Jones warns, “Employers rarely hire people straight from the military into ‘leadership’ positions, except at 2* level and above so it is probably more relevant for Service leavers to focus on their management skills and what these mean to an employer. They might see ‘leadership’ as a nice to have and as a potential for the future but are unlikely to hire them into a new sector as a leader immediately.”

A successful business needs strong leaders and good managers to get their teams on board and follow their vision for success. Leadership is about getting people to understand and believe in your vision while managing is more about making sure that day-to-day things happen as they should.

As OA Career Consultant Jo Sturdy says, “Good leaders are imbued with a high degree of empathy and emotional intelligence. Managers take an operational perspective, and a good manager is able to balance people and processes effectively.”

To be competitive, organisations need to develop leaders who have sufficient management knowledge and capabilities. Organisations also need effective managers who possess adequate leadership skills for better problem-solving and overall functioning. The wrong management style risks de-motivating employees which can then damage productivity and output.

As a Service leaver or a veteran, you will have exceptional leadership skills gained from your military training but take a moment to identify your key management skills before applying for the next job.

As Simon Sinek says, ‘Leadership is not an expertise - leadership is a constant education’. Management has many styles – democratic, coaching, visionary, laissez-faire, authoritative, participative, transformational and more – which is your style?

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