Leadership skills and leaders are often viewed in a number of wildly differing ways.

Sometimes the very definition of leadership skills seems to arch achingly from one set of values to another entirely, depending on whom you speak to, what position they’re in, and what kind of leaders they have encountered in the past.

One of the chief things to remember with leadership is that it has a set of stark characteristics that differentiate it from management. Too often the two are incorrectly used interchangeably.

While there are of course similarities between the two roles, one functions as a set of organizational processes and rules, whereas the other focuses on behaviors, dynamics, and people.

Management Misconceptions

A management position often conjures images of power.

You are given the reigns and the freedom to do what you will, striving for success at all costs. Of course, though, this is a misconception, certainly if you want to manage successfully.

And if you want to lead, you’re going to want to turn that image around a full 180 degrees.

Whilst the attributes that define management outline it as a series of rules and regulations, enforcing these in a brutal manner is no way to go about achieving success. The role is still people focused and still requires you to motivate and cultivate a productive working atmosphere.

As a manager, you are utilizing your ‘power’ to teach, coach, and put processes in place, as well as make it as easy as possible for your people to do their jobs effectively.

Leadership Lessons

Similarly, when leadership is confused with management, it becomes a contrived entity that doesn’t have a place in the system.

Leaders are seen as part of the system of power, with a leadership role attributed to anybody at the top of the pack, whilst management sits below with all the specialist and operative roles below that.

Again, this is a misconception that is actually more detrimental than you may first think.

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Power to the People

When it comes to the ‘power’ involved with leadership, in truth you’re actually dispensing with authority yourself, and distributing it among your people.

You’re putting the power in their hands, while simultaneously ensuring their environment is one in which they are able to succeed. Allowing the people you’re leading to make their own decisions, with you there as guidance, empowers them to take initiative and a proactive step.

It increases the likelihood of employees buying-in; it makes your output more unified and focused and creates stronger overall team.

And that’s just in a team capacity. ‘Power’ in terms of leadership for the whole organization emanates in a manner much grander than simply imposing new procedures and actions. It is directly related to finding new opportunities, new ground for the company, and pushing the business in new directions.

Leadership is a vision, and you use the functions at your disposal not to wield power, but to empower, pursue, and progress.

Leadership Skills and Managers

Ultimately, neither leadership nor management are about brandishing power about.

Where leadership is concerned though, it is the direct opposite. You’re actively putting that power into the hands of your people and allowing them to succeed.

Keep this in mind as you develop, and always remember what the difference between management and leadership is – good leadership skills.

How Do You Give the Power Back?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Sean McPheat
Sean helps companies improve their sales, management and HR teams through consulting, coaching and training. Sean is Managing Director of the MTD Training group and you can follow Sean online here for more tips and advice on how to boost your business.
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