Leadership Versus Management – Which is More Important to the Operation of Your Business?

Posted on September 17, 2010


Moral Leadership, photo from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Leadership versus management, which is more necessary to operating a business? The answer is both are necessary to the success of your business. But what makes a good manager? Or what makes a good leader? Are the skills of a manager similar to those of a leader? The relationship of management to leadership is important for business owners to understand.

A good manager handles the day-to-day activities of the business. Basic management skills include planning, controlling and directing, problem solving and decision making, and measuring and reporting. Other skills of a manager include motivating and engaging employees in their work and in the business, training (and learning), communicating, and understanding how to build a strong culture that aligns with the business objectives.

A good leader is often required to handle more than the day-to-day activities. What are the characteristics of a good leader? A good leader is a visionary – someone who is creative and passionate about the future; someone who is solutions-focused instead of problems-focused; someone who is open to different perspectives and who is open to discussion; someone who embraces change if it moves the business in the direction of the vision; and a good leader is someone whom others will follow (employees and other stakeholders).

Effective leaders will focus on your future and good managers will focus on your present operations. In a small business environment, you do not want, or need, too many leaders (who will follow them?) and you also do not need a large number of managers. Typically, the business owner needs to be the visionary leader of the small business, and in many cases the owner is also the manager. It is difficult to balance the basic management skills of a good manager with the qualities and characteristics of a good leader in one person, but good training and development can help teach both leadership and management skills.

For example, working with a peer network can help you to develop stronger leadership focus and skills. Or working with a business coach or mentor can help you to work on specific management skills or abilities. Changing your behavior and learning new skills can feel uncomfortable initially, but with practice and feedback from your peer group, coach and/or employees, you can become a good manager and an effective leader.

However it’s also important to have a realistic view of your skills, abilities and potential: if you’re a leader who is bored with the day-to-day activities of management you might not be able to sustain any change or learning. Consider hiring a manager (full time or part time) or outsourcing some of day-to-day work that you find least rewarding. While there is a cost attached to it, the advantages of outsourcing may very well come with a substantial payback; it will enable you to do what you’re best at and that will likely provide a good return to the business.

Trying to choose between the importance of leadership versus management is not the best approach (when looking for strengths and weaknesses of a business). In a business environment, you need both (not just one or another). The qualities of a good leader are as important and necessary to a small business as the qualities or characteristics of a good manager.

For more on leadership, basic management skills, and other small business resources and services, please visit More For Small Business.
Kris Bovay is the owner of Voice Marketing Inc, a business and marketing services company. Kris has 25 years of experience in leading large, medium and small businesses; she also teaches a business ethics and workplace practices course at the largest post secondary institution in British Columbia, Canada. Copyright 2008 – 2009 Voice Marketing Inc.

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