Leadership
or Management?

Dr IOAN REES

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Leadership and management must go hand in hand. Both managers and leaders must be able to communicate vision and strategy to a team, and motivate others to work together to
accomplish goals.

However, there are some subtle nuances in the approach of someone who considers themselves an education leader and one who sees themselves as a manager.

Leaders are often big picture thinkers with a long-range view of an organisation. Where managers usually focus on specific projects and work, leaders are usually more people-focused. Not only do they see how people fit into the larger organisation, they are often passionate about nurturing talent and developing the next generation of leaders. 

Managers tend to be more task, system and control driven, while leaders will often explore new possibilities. This does not mean leaders reject systems altogether; however, they use their broad perspective to explore new avenues for achieving goals. In fact, pacesetting and innovating leaders are often curious and engaged in the process of discovering solutions to new and old problems. 

Herein lies one of the most crucial differences between management and leadership. Managers are often content to work within the systems provided, while leaders are willing to shake things up in order to facilitate new, perhaps unexpected outcomes. In this way, leaders cultivate an atmosphere of trust in their teams, where managers most often rely on having a certain degree of control. This tendency toward control can even become a hindrance for team members who excel at creative and autonomous problem solving.

Just as different styles of leadership must be adopted for each organisation or team, in some cases, leaders must also become managers. This is particularly true in highly formalised contexts often with ingrained traditional structures and rigorous oversight such as education and health care. Indeed, the combination of a strong leader and smart manager can help industries break out of traditional thinking while still ensuring high standards.

Finding balance is more important than the distinction between management and leadership. There are times when management is important, especially when it comes to ensuring the successful completion of projects, measuring performance and other tactical competencies. But it’s those who can move beyond tactical perspective to a more strategic view of an organisation and its staff that make for the most effective leaders overall.

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