Often in businesses, when employees are promoted to a new role, they find themselves as a people manager to a number of direct reports, with a number of performance goals to achieve and no formal training or tools on how to lead or manage their new team, or even on what the difference between management and leadership is.

It is also common for employees who have held a people manager role for some time to not have received any formal training and are now finding themselves struggling to succeed with their team.


The differences between management and leadership

The terms management and leadership are used interchangeably however they are two very different concepts.

If we consider the definition of a manager there is a much more transactional focus on controlling or administering. Whereas the definition of a leader has a more transformational focus on leading through inspiring or motivating.

There are a number of key differences between a manager and a leader:

Manager Leader
Administers Innovates
Is a copy Is an original
Maintains Develops
Focuses on systems and structures Focuses on people
Relies on control Inspires trust
Has a short-range view Has a long-range perspective
Asks how and when Asks what and why
Eye always on the bottom line Eye is on the horizon
Imitates Originates
Accepts the status quo Challenges the status quo
The classic ‘good soldier’ Their own person
Does things right Does the right thing


Source: Warren Bennis (2009) – “On Becoming a Leader”.


So, what is better, managing or leading?

The answer is both, whilst management and leadership are different, they should go hand in hand as they are complementary to each other and will help in the achievement of long-term business objectives. Through understanding both concepts, people managers can tailor their skills to achieve the best balance required for the business.

Managers cannot be successful without being good leaders, and leaders cannot be successful without being good managers.

The Manager to Leader journey is one of self-development, where an individual can improve themselves and subsequently their team and impact business performance.


Developing your Managers to Leaders

Employees who have been promoted to be a people manager have usually developed into a technical expert in their department or specialist area and have quite often already established a transactional focus. This technical aptitude and transactional skill set may naturally align them to the concept of management rather than the concept of leadership when they take on their people manager role.

As the people managers within your business are a crucial link between the CEO, the business objectives and the team members who contribute to the accomplishment of those objectives, developing leaders to have a transformational focus should be a priority for your business.

ELMO’s 2021 HR Industry Benchmark Report found that almost a quarter of respondents (22%) identified leadership development as one of their top challenges for the next 12 months. Professional development will be important due to the battle businesses are facing with high employee turnover and the struggle to attract talent.

The last few years have also dramatically shifted the way in which leaders interact with their teams, not only in a physical sense but in an emotional sense too. ELMO’s 2022 HR Trends Report found that 82% of employees want their organisation to view them as people, not just employees and it is therefore critical that managers have the skills required to have meaningful conversations with their employees.

The 2021 Leadership Development Study undertaken by the Training Magazine, identified that the top 5 priority skills for leadership development were Coaching others; Communication skills; Diversity and Inclusion; Emotional Intelligence skills and Team Leadership.

These recent trends highlight the importance of not just focusing on employees being managed but also on employees being led.


The benefits of developing your Leaders

Through investing in the development of your leaders, you can assist them to develop qualities that are critical to a leader’s success. As identified by the Stephenson Mansell Group (Art of Leadership, 2013) these qualities include:

  • Agility, flexibility and innovation to manage through ambiguity, complexity & change;
  • Strategic thinking, vision and future orientation;
  • Communication, presentation and influencing skills;
  • People leadership and talent development; and
  • Authentic leadership and ability to engender trust.


Leaders have the ability to strongly influence an employee’s experience and engagement with your business. There are a number of benefits to investing in your leaders and a few of the key benefit areas include:

  • Attraction and retention of talent: not only will you improve the experience and engagement that employees have with their leader, you will also improve the leader’s experience with the business by investing in their professional development. This will contribute to increasing your retention and engagement of employees and therefore reduce the associated costs of turnover. Your developed leaders will also be able to attract, hire and retain high-performing employees.


  • An improvement to your bottom-line: through building your leader’s capacity and developing a leadership focus, you will open the door to strategic thinking, innovation and increased opportunities within the business that will reduce costs, increase revenue and improve the satisfaction of your customers.


  • Business Strategy: investing in your leaders and developing their leadership qualities such as strategic thinking and vision, will not only increase their buy-in to your business strategy but it will give them the skills to successfully collaborate with their team and execute the strategy.


  • Ability to respond to and navigate change: by developing your leaders and equipping them to be agile, flexible and innovative, they will be able to assist the business to respond quicker to disruptions or change. They will also be able to lead their team members through this with effective communication and trust.


Key Takeaways

People managers are a crucial link in your business, and it is important that they understand both the concept of management and the concept of leadership and what balance is required for your business.

With recent trends highlighting the importance of not just focusing on employees being managed but also on employees being led, now is a good time to consider developing a leadership strategy for your business and prioritising investing in leadership development.

If your organisation needs assistance in developing your leaders, Employment Innovations can assist. Reach out to our team for more information.



About Employment Innovations

Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium sized employer needs – including workplace advice, legal services, payroll solutions, migration, human resource management and HR software.



The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.