There’s a difference between a good manager and a good leader – but organisations need both to be successful

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Whatever the size and scope of your role in business, CQUniversity’s MBA (Leadership) will give you the practical leadership and management skills to be better at it. It’s a real MBA, and also nothing like other MBAs.

Learn More »

When I first started my CQUniversity MBA (Leadership), I worked through what my personal career objectives were and what I needed to do to deliver on my goals as a manager. But three months into my study, I’ve realised what I’m actually learning is what a leader looks like in the 21st century.

Abraham Zaleznik wrote in the Harvard Business Review that Business leaders have much more in common with artists than they do with managers.

It lines up with CQUni’s modern MBA, which covers disruption in the workforce, the difference between leading physical and virtual teams, and what style is more important to an effective organisation – managing or leading?

The old workplace – in which managers simply told employees what to do – has changed.

Today, employees want to be involved in management and organisations expect employees to work in teams and share in decision making.

So even if you’re not interested in being a manager, many leadership skills will become necessary to succeed in a modern workplace.

If you are aspiring towards leadership, the development needed comes in two phases: good management, and true leadership.

Managers and leaders are often used interchangeably, here are some of the biggest differences between the two that the CQUni MBA (Leadership) course material identifies:

Source: Daniel Goh/Business Insider.

An organisation needs both good leaders and good managers to succeed, however rarely can someone naturally have the traits of both straight away.

Most businesses will present staff with an opportunity to be promoted into management through good performance and then support them with management training; but the development it takes to become a good leader is more complex.

Leaders need to be able to influence how people think and help shape a company’s direction with fresh ideas and approaches to solving problems. Their relationship with staff is based on empathy and connection, not just authority.

While managers may prefer working with people, they also need to maintain minimal emotional connection and can therefore lack the empathy that a leader possesses. Managers look for order, structure and control in delivering on a company’s goals.

Meg Whitman, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, recently discussed the strategy she took when restructuring what was then a challenged business.

One of the first questions she faced was ‘why didn’t you initially focus on what was wrong with HP, when you first began your role as CEO’?

Meg’s response: most managers have an instinct to fix what is wrong, but her leadership approach was to identify what they were doing right and to do more of it.

She ensured her approach connected with the hearts and minds of staff and consumers, so they were equal drivers of the new strategy. Working through their strengths and breaking down the problems, HP successfully split into two distinct businesses, Printing & Ink and Enterprise lead by Meg and her teams.

There’s an easy way to the think about the differences between leaders and managers: managers have people who work for them, but leaders have people that follow them. A successful business requires both to get people to align to a shared vision and successful business outcomes.

If you’re interested in finding out whether you’re a leader or manager, I suggest taking this quiz (as objectively as possible).

There is so much I want to learn, and there will never be enough time to spend learning. My personal journey continues with CQUniversity – not without general work and personal life distractions. The benefits are already clear, as I employ new ways of thinking and considering situations at work to benefit the company, our staff and me personally. It has been a really great experience so far.



Marc Ashton is the Victorian Sales Director for Allure Media, the next generation media company that partners with opinion leaders, influencers and entrepreneurs. Look out for the next article from Marc as he works through his MBA.
Whatever the size and scope of your role in business, CQUniversity’s MBA (Leadership) will give you the practical leadership and management skills to be better at it. It’s a real MBA, and also nothing like other MBAs.

Learn More »

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