Management Versus Leadership Skills: Psst… You Need Them Both

January 31, 2018

Recently, I was sitting at dinner in between two friends who were having a disagreement about which skill set was more important, management skills or leadership skills.

It felt a little bit like watching a tennis match, with the ball being swatted back and forth from one person to another. The friend on my right would make an excellent point about management skills and then the friend on my left would counter with a reason supporting the need for leadership skills.

To be fair, they both had great comments about each skill.

Management skills. Necessary to run a business or organization. Requires planning, budgeting, staffing, organizing projects, controlling outcomes, solving problems and improving efficiency in the use of resources.

Leadership skills. Includes guiding the direction of an organization, department or team, creating a vision for change, communicating the vision, inspiring people, allocating scarce resources, aligning people and motivating others to commit to achieving the vision.

It was an interesting discussion because I hadn’t really thought about one being more important than the other. I had usually seen them as synergistic because both management and leadership skills have been necessary for me to excel in my career. It had just depended on the type of job and level I was at, as to which of the two skills I had leaned on more heavily.

For example, in my entry-level to intermediate jobs, I used more of my management skills because I needed my area of the company to run as productively and as efficiently as possible. However, I always made sure that our daily tactical and operational activities were aligned to the company’s overall strategy and that we all understood how what we were doing was impacting the organization’s bottom line.

The higher I was promoted in management, the more I needed to use my leadership and strategic planning skills. But I would never have been as successful in those executive-level jobs without my previous day-to-day management and business operations experience.

That’s because my executive-level jobs weren’t just about determining our strategic plans, they were also about working with management teams and various project teams throughout the organization to implement those plans and to track, measure and manage our results.

I shared my thoughts with my two friends, telling them that in today’s fast-pace, high-tech, global economy, the new reality is that both management skills and leadership skills are necessary.

“This has become even more important, especially in technology industries, where employees often lead cross-functional teams and no one is a direct report to them,” I said. “Being good at understanding how things function and managing daily business operations now goes hand in hand with being able to influence others through leadership skills.”

“So what you’re saying is that young people today need both skills to succeed,” my friend said.

Exactly. Both management skills and leadership skills should be developed because both are necessary.

~ Lisa Quast

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