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One of the biggest mistakes any business can make is to think that leadership is an innate quality. While you may have a desire or disposition to lead, making key decisions and implementing them effectively takes time to develop, whether that’s through practical experience or focused training. 

Leadership and management are roles with substantial crossover, but also distinct and separate responsibilities. Having successful leaders and managers means investing in leadership and management development – and aligning both areas to build a better culture within the organisation. 

Leadership vs management

We all have an innate understanding of the difference between a leader and a manager. A leader will typically be a senior figure within an organisation, whose job it is to listen to stakeholders, and to make and effectively communicate key decisions. A manager will ensure that these decisions are relayed and implemented successfully at all levels. 

Implicit in this understanding is a clear power dynamic between business leaders and managers. Leaders make decisions, and managers ensure that they are carried out. In practice however, these two positions not only require similar skill sets, but must involve some level of mutual understanding and dialogue. Without one, the other cannot function – and without a shared purpose and understanding, neither will be particularly effective. 

In a successful business, leaders will set a positive example through the strength and clarity of their actions, and define a template for others to implement throughout the business. Leaders provide and ensure uniformity through constant reinforcement of a clear vision, and decisions that are properly communicated to others, ensuring that everyone is equally invested. Management is about applying this template, and liaising with the business leader or leaders to ensure that takeup is swift and effective. 

Good managers will communicate with employees on a micro and macro level, personally ensuring that a real understanding and absorption of that culture permeates throughout the organisation. Crucially, they will also ensure that communication is a two-way street, and that any problems in implementing decisions are relayed back up the pyramid.

What are the benefits of leadership development? 

Leadership in a business context is a demanding occupation. Business leaders tend to be bombarded with information, and make decisions based on numerous factors. The broad scope of their responsibilities often means that they have to wear multiple hats, and keep abreast of various aspects of the business, including those which they might not be as naturally capable in. All of this requires coolness, clarity, and the ability to see things in context.

Leadership development focuses on bolstering these traits, and ensuring that business leaders can make the best decisions possible. This often focuses on emotional intelligence and communication, two critical aspects of effective decision-making. Good leaders need not only to be able to communicate what they need and what needs to be done, but do so in a way that’s self-aware, reasonable, and empathetic to employees’ capabilities and needs.

By developing your leadership abilities, you’ll be able to make decisions that take in a broader swathe of information, and utilise this information more effectively. You’ll then be able to communicate that information with clarity and purpose, imparting the value of taking certain actions, and instigating a process that will see them implemented effectively. All of this works to improve the effectiveness of those actions, increasing productivity by eliminating wasted time, and inspiring employees to work more efficiently.

Leadership development also helps leaders to find their feet, and develop a distinctive leadership style. No two people lead in exactly the same way: everyone differs to some extent in how they communicate, how they manage the people and resources at their disposal, and how they interpret the data they are given. Leadership development helps to build confidence in your approach, and allows you to test and hone ideas in a safe environment.

What are the benefits of management development? 

While leadership and management have a substantial amount of crossover, management is particularly dependent on good interpersonal communication. Leaders have to be strong communicators as well, but they rely on managers to impart the information they are given without diminishing its meaning or importance. A manager is vital to ensure that decisions are implemented correctly, and that any impediments to doing so are quickly spotted and resolved.

Management development focuses on improving these skills, and helping managers to keep teams informed and motivated. On a macro level, management training helps managers to disseminate information to employees, setting targets and putting the systems in place to help them achieve them. On a micro level, it teaches managers the skills they need to identify issues, approach individuals, and provide the motivation and support they need to work more effectively.

Good managers are constantly learning and constantly scrutinising, both in terms of the employees they are managing, and their own personal performance. Management development provides the processes, guidance and confidence to perform both of these tasks effectively. Perhaps most importantly, it helps and encourages managers to be reactive and malleable, making small changes whenever necessary, and helping their employees to manage major transitions.

Bad business decisions tend to be fairly terminal, but bad management can be a slower and more insidious issue. One of the great benefits and reasons for management training is to correct problems with attitudes and approaches, and impart the value of maintaining morale and happiness as a way to achieve better performance. With modern employees seeking a better work-life balance – and being ready to move to achieve this – managers who can help meet these needs are more important than ever.

Balancing the roles of leader and manager

In a small business environment, there often aren’t enough employees to justify the recruitment of a dedicated manager. In these instances, the business owner often has to juggle both roles, and change both their attitude and outlook from moment to moment. The strategic decisions of a leader need to be married with the interpersonal aspects of management – and these two things can sometimes come into conflict.

Achieving this means having an in-depth knowledge of the responsibilities of each role, something that training can help to develop. But it also comes down to two key factors: experience and self-awareness. Business owners need to develop a sense of when to apply different management styles, and adapt their approach to the situation and individuals at hand. The micro of management needs to be married with the macro of strategy and decision-making, with each interaction being weighed against the broader needs of the business.

Knowing when to lead and when to manage is ultimately a matter of experience and judgement. However, training can lend definition to these two roles, and help you to slip in and out of them more easily and confidently. The best small business leaders are able to forge strong interpersonal relationships while also setting and maintaining clear targets – ensuring that personnel are happy and motivated, but also beholden to high standards, and to a consistent company culture.


Leaders and managers are two sides of the same coin, and both play hugely important roles in setting and maintaining the standards for others to follow. By investing in leadership and management development, you are investing in the performance of an entire organisation – with improvements to efficiency, effectiveness, and company culture. To find out more about leadership and management training, including our Management and Senior Leadership Development Programmes, visit our Leadership & Management course page.

Develop the leadership potential in your team

Leadership & management is about more than just decision-making. The best business leaders arm themselves with the information they need to make good decisions. Whether you are looking to gain a better understanding of your training and development gaps, build training plans across multiple teams, or need bespoke training solutions for a particular challenge, we can help identify your options and the solutions available.

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Mark Fryer

3rd March 2022

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