Helen Anco: The difference between leaders and managers

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Businesses, large and small, require leaders, managers and supervisors. To many they are more colloquially known as the bosses or management.

There are two questions I would put to you – as a boss or management do you consciously ask ‘Am I leading, am I managing or am I supervising when working with an employee, a group or with teams?’

‘Do I adapt my style when I work with different people or do I communicate in the same way with everyone?’

Let’s take the first of these and remind ourselves of the differences.

Leaders create a vision for the company or the organisation. A vision statement provides an inspirational future direction – something clear to aim for yet not written as a business goal, e.g. “To fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality“ (Hilton Worldwide).

Leaders build a mission statement which provides the purpose of the company e.g. “…. We will market the most appealing and widely worn casual clothing in the world….” (Levi Strauss & Co). A values statement is also essential in order that employees, customers and the public understand the culture and beliefs and the way in which the company or organisation wish to operate. The leader is responsible for creating and driving a strategy that takes the company from where it is now to where it wants to be at a point in the future. The Leader works on the long-term.

Managers implement the strategy agreeing ambitious yet achievable goals with their team members, maximising the efficiency of all the resources within budgets, developing all the assets including the human resource and delivering business objectives. The Manager focuses on the medium term.

Supervisors oversee operational aspects of their areas ensuring targets are being met, quality is being retained and standards and procedures are being adhered to.

The Supervisor is responsible for the short-term.

In the Borders where businesses are subsidiaries of corporates, SMEs and micro enterprises one person is often in two or three of these roles. It is critical the boss recognises that success requires a Leader, a Manager and a Supervisor even although he or she may have to wear more than one of these hats. Each hat requires a different skill-set and approach. It can be confusing and sometimes lonely yet so very rewarding when carried out effectively.

The answer to the second question needs to be ‘yes’ as the boss must adapt their style to inspire and motivate each team member. Very often a boss will wonder why one employee responds positively to an instruction or a conversation when another responds negatively to exactly the same message conveyed in the same manner.

The boss will be frustrated at the reaction of the latter and see that team member as a difficult employee. This may be the case but often the boss has not recognised that the two people are totally different styles with differing needs. One is sensitive and the other straight talking; perhaps one is more open to change and the other hates anything to shift from ‘how it’s always been’, maybe one requires closer micro-management being new to the task or the team and welcomes direction while the other has a developed skill-set, a vast degree of knowledge and likes to be consulted rather than being told.