Management vs. leadership

We often use the terms ‘manager’ and ‘leader’ interchangeably, but the two roles are distinctly different from each other. While our role may well incorporate both, it is important to distinguish where we may need to adapt our approach.

Management involves the operational tasks of running a business, for example, payroll, recruitment, building maintenance and budgeting. These tasks can generally be learned and may require qualified personnel to undertake specific duties. Many of these responsibilities will of course involve highly sensitive and confidential information, therefore it is necessary to appoint a suitable manager who is trained, or can be trained, in dealing with these parts of the business appropriately.

Leadership is the action of leading a group of people and/or an organisation and requires different skills to that of management. Leaders build a vision of how they want their business to grow – and inspiring a team to follow their vision while bringing out the best of their abilities takes emotional intelligence and effective communication skills. Fostering trust and rapport is essential in successful leadership and goes far beyond the mere act of delivering instructions. People are, after all, living beings with unique skills, ambitions and backgrounds.

In a veterinary practice, it is not uncommon for the most senior clinician to be given the role of manager and/or a leader without truly reflecting on whether it is the best use of their time and skills. By distinguishing where our business needs lie, we can ensure that we use the best approach and promote a healthy and rewarding working environment.