When talking about leadership and management, the respondents in O’Leary’s interviews (see my previous two blogs for details) frequently mentioned the positive influences a good leader’s character and behaviours can have on his or her followers. While they also mentioned behaviours when discussing managers, the emphasis was different: good managers bring out results.

The interviewees focussed on the effects of good leadership behaviours on staff when discussing leaders, but they focussed on the manager when discussing managers.

In other words, good leaders helped people to feel trusted, trust in return, and feel engaged, motivated and encouraged. Good managers gained trust, made themselves visible, worked to ensure full accountability, adopted an optimistic outlook and provided recognition and reward.

Moreover, the same task took on different dimensions depending on whether it was seen as a management or leadership intervention. Take delegation and development, for example. Respondents believed managers delegated primarily to improve efficiency, while leaders did so to empower their subordinates.

Interviewees referred to more leader behaviours directed toward developing their employees than they did to management behaviours directed at the same goal (14 to 5, to be precise), strongly suggesting that employee development was seen as more central to leadership than to management.

Yet, as O’Leary noted, while we might think of managers as having a different focus than leaders, the distinction becomes extraordinarily fuzzy when their daily activities are looked at. Most of the activities were exceptionally similar or even identical, such as motivating, learning, and delegating.

Are management and leadership different in practice? Here’s O’Leary’s verdict:

“I’d suggest that they aren’t that different in terms of how they actually play out in organizations. Certain behaviours and activities are common to the effective demonstration of both leadership and management. The crucial difference – maybe the only difference — is the focus of the person carrying them out. Focus more on people and you’ll demonstrate leadership, more on results and you’ll perform management; but what you’re actually doing may not be that different.”

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