Woman standing and talking to a room full of people

What are leadership and management skills?

Posted on: May 31, 2022

Leadership and management skills are often considered similar or the same thing. And yet the practicalities of being a leader versus being a manager can be very different. Leaders tend to have a big-picture view or a vision which inspires and motivates team members. Vision is less about the day-to-day business or the practicalities of planning and more about the ultimate goal of the business and its values. A good leader is a role model for how to embody business values.

Managers can still be motivating and inspiring in their approach, but their concern is for the nuts and bolts of working life, ensuring that administrative tasks are carried out efficiently and in a timely manner to reach organisational goals. Good people management skills are no less valuable than leadership skills in running a successful business. For small business owners, the challenge is to balance both leadership and management skills until the business grows and more staff can be taken on to help with problem-solving and decision-making.

What are the different leadership styles?

There are three types of leadership style that were identified by psychologist Kurt Lewin in 1939 and which are considered to be the classic methodologies. They are:

Autocratic leadership

This is a style of leadership that has become relatively outdated as it can lead to micromanaging and involvement in granular decision-making that only complicates everyday business matters. Some elements of this authoritarian style may be useful but only if blended with other elements so as not to create a culture of fear in the work environment. It can also be extremely useful in times of crisis.

Democratic (or participative) leadership

Democratic leaders encourage the exchange of ideas and are genuinely open to feedback. Employees are increasingly looking for jobs in which they can bring their whole selves to work and feel respected and valued. This is important because it also makes it less likely that staff will quit and so a good retention rate can be maintained. Teamwork and unity become more prevalent in these work environments with less gossiping and cliques forming.

Laissez-faire leadership

Laissez-faire leaders take a hands-off approach to business as usual and are skilled at delegating tasks or decision-making that they don’t need to be involved in. A great deal of faith is put into members of staff to take responsibility and be self-motivated. As hierarchies in business management become increasingly flattened, this approach relies on team members to organise themselves and decide who does what.

What are the core competencies of leadership?

According to researchers at the Centre for Creative Leadership in the United States, these are essential competencies that human resources teams may look for when filling leadership roles:

Leading the organisation:

  • Managing change
  • Solving problems and making decisions
  • Managing politics and influencing others
  • Taking risks and innovating
  • Setting vision and strategy
  • Managing the work
  • Enhancing business skills and knowledge
  • Understanding and navigating the organisation

Leading the self:

  • Demonstrating ethics and integrity
  • Displaying drive and purpose
  • Exhibiting leadership stature
  • Increasing your capacity to learn
  • Managing yourself
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Developing adaptability

Leading others:

  • Communicating effectively
  • Developing others
  • Valuing diversity and difference
  • Building and maintaining relationships
  • Managing effective teams and work groups

This is an extensive list and even those who are considered great leaders will not have strengths in every single competency – there will always be room for further development.

Why are leadership skills important to managers?

According to Gallup, 70% of a team’s engagement is influenced by managers. Even though managers are perceived as more practical and hands-on than leaders, the expectation that they will be more of a coach than a boss is gaining traction. Ultimately, if a new employee experiences effective communication with their manager, that will come to define their experience of the company as a whole. As the saying goes, employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Much of the list of competencies listed above that are required for leaders to lead others could just as easily apply to today’s manager.

There is no particular set of rules or management style that’s recommended in order to become a great manager. What is important is for a manager to know their strengths and weaknesses and commit to filling any gaps in their skill set.

What is people management?

Effective people management can involve supporting employees through training, gaining new skills, personal and professional development, and motivational coaching. However, it also takes into account the soft skills of team management including emotional intelligence, creativity, active listening, adaptability, time management, and collaboration. These are what are sometimes referred to as interpersonal skills and good managers demonstrate a level of self-awareness and empathy as well as the ability to successfully manage conflict and achieve resolution.

Important people management skills can be gained from traditional management training and coaching but they can also be learnt through unconventional methods that offer new challenges. One example of this is improvisational theatre. This is because improv requires good communication including listening skills and the ability to pick up on non-verbal clues such as facial expressions, eye contact, and posture. It can also help managers and leaders to overcome fears around public speaking while the elements of play and creativity can be hugely supportive to team building.

Running an effective team requires trust. From recognising and rewarding hard work to empowering staff to speak openly in performance reviews and ensuring their wellbeing, a successful manager is invaluable to any company. High performance in management goes beyond simply hitting KPIs and can be the difference between underperforming teams and ones which thrive.   

Discover more about the differences between leadership and management skills

Entrepreneurs tend to have great problem-solving skills but what about people management skills? And what should a leader consider to be essential skills? Explore these questions and many more with an online MBA Entrepreneurship from the University of Wolverhampton.

The world of work is changing and reconfiguring, but even the greatest innovators and thinkers still need managers and teams to support them in their vision. Register your interest today in an MBA that specialises in entrepreneurship and take the first step on a career development path to becoming a more effective leader.

No. 1 Ranked in the UK For Teaching first generation students
85% of research 'world-leading' or 'internationally important' (latest REF)
Online Psychology Master’s accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS)
22,000 A university of 22,000 students
1827 Providing education and opportunity since 1827