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The importance of distinguishing between good management and good leadership

Employees will often compliment a good boss by describing them as a great leader. Someone who can make the tough calls when the situation requires it; someone who stands firm in their beliefs and is guided by a vision. People can’t help but want to get on board and work with people like this.

But it’s important to recognise that good leadership is separate from good management.

An effective manager isn’t necessarily a natural leader. Of course, you can have a management title and still be an excellent leader, but there’s a difference between being called a manager – the noun – and actually being a manager – the verb. Great managers are facilitators who bring the best out in their teams; poor ones are focused on hierarchy and exercising their perceived authority.

A leader however, is something different altogether.

A leader doesn’t necessarily have to be in a senior position. A leader operates based on their abilities and strengths, not their job title. The not so subtle difference between a great manager and a great leader is that the best leaders encourage leadership from others for the mutual benefit and inspiration of all. They are not threatened by the success of others, in fact it motivates them.

Leadership leads to success

A study from the Harvard Business Review found that a business’s leadership style can contribute to as much as 30% of the company’s profits. With that sort of effect, it’s amazing that businesses continue to invest in efficiency and productivity to increase the bottom line, when a focus on nurturing leadership in the organisation could produce much better results long-term.

If you consider that everyone has innate leadership skills within themselves, or at least the ability to develop them, then it is well worth a company’s time to invest in leadership in their organisation.

The HBR study found that there are distinct styles of leadership, each with varying effects on the businesses they reviewed, and that businesses can benefit from better leadership by mixing up these different styles.

Leadership approaches

The six types of leadership defined by the HBR study were: Affiliative, Authoritative, Coaching, Coercive, Democratic and Pace-setting.

Affiliative leaders focus on a sense of belonging and a ‘people-first’ culture that cultivates loyalty and commitment. This kind of leadership works particularly well when stress levels are high and trust is low. Affiliative leaders uses praise and a nurturing attitude to lift the team, but the study found that used excessively, this leadership style could lead to a lack of direction and initiative for fear of missing out on praise.

Authoritative leaders often use goals and individual targets to drive their teams forward. This style works with teams who already work with initiative and have a sense of autonomy. This style of leadership fosters and inspires entrepreneurialism and enthusiasm for individual and team success, however it can create friction with some teams being asked to follow the lead of someone with less experience or expertise.

Coaching leaders are great mentors who focus on personal development to inspire their team. They are motivational, encouraging personalities who coach individuals to build on their strengths. This is a long-term approach that works well in most environments, but can be less effective with legacy teams and people who prefer to do things the way they always have.

Coercive leaders are effectively managers with “do as I say, I’m the boss” attitude, but their style can be effective in crisis situations or as a method used to control a loose cannon. If you value intuition and creativity, this leadership style is not for you.

Democratic leaders are collegiate and focus on team buy-in, participation and personal ownership. This style works best with experienced teams but can be harder to implement with new teams or when projects have strict deadlines.

Pace-setting leaders lead by example. Motivated teams excel with pace-setting leaders, but used excessively, this style can be overwhelming, especially if the leader is naturally intense and if people can’t keep up with their pace!

Mix it up

Think of leadership like breakfast cereal; you may have a favourite but no-one wants to eat the same bowl of cereal every day of their lives. It’s good to mix it up with different brands or even porridge, some yoghurt or a slice of toast every now and then! Energise your team with variety and you can also ensure that different people are able to get something out of the different approaches you trial.

The best leadership is situational, and sometimes you’ll need to play Bad Cop, whilst other times you’ll need to be nurturing, sensitive or inspiring. Whatever leadership style you choose, remember it’s not about management, it’s about bringing the best out of others, and sharing the success with them.

About the author

Maria Bellissimo-MagrinMaria Bellissimo-Magrin is the CEO of full-service creative marketing agency Belgrin. Her previous contributions for Dynamic Business include Digital Branding: Six ideas to help your SME nail this increasingly complex taskWhy potential customers ignore your adsSocial media channels your SME needs to be on and How User Friendly Is Your Business’s Website?

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Maria Bellissimo-Magrin

Maria Bellissimo-Magrin

Maria Bellissimo-Magrin is the CEO of full-service creative marketing agency Belgrin.

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