Leadership and Management – What’s the Difference_

Leadership and Management – What’s the Difference?

Many people find themselves in a new supervisory position without any leadership training. They quickly realize leadership is not the same as a position, or a title, or a uniform. The basic principle of leadership is that leaders help others do their job better. New managers should not forget they still need to help their unit succeed.

One big difference between a leader and a supervisor is self-awareness. This is where DISC can help to understand oneself better, strengthen natural skills, and develop new leadership abilities. Some managers choose only to use the authority given to them in their new position. Their focus is on policy, procedures, and disciplinary action. While this approach may work to a certain level, at the end, these types of managers can potentially drive talent away.

Discover Your Leadership Style

Let’s look at 3 key leadership skills using DISC personalities as the lens to talk about the difference between a leader and a manager.

1. Leaders listen. Managers command.

Communication is a large piece of effective leadership. New managers might think this means simply talking at their subordinates. There is always a need to disseminate information in organizations. The key communication skill is listening to the team.

  • The “Dominant” personality types will have to make a conscious effort to listen, as they want quick action. Active listening may help them catch details that might otherwise derail a project.
  • The “Influential” styles will want to talk about themselves, but once they flex to listen, they can better help the team, resulting in the team being inspired and united around the “I” leader.
  • The “Steady” types are best at listening and should leverage the team’s trust, but be aware of their resistance to change coming across as defensiveness to a suggestion.
  • The “Compliant” personalities will want to impress with their expertise, but they should ask the team about questions first. Truly listen to understand, and then deliver value through knowledge.

2. Leaders share power. Managers hoard it.

New managers often think they have to make every decision and lead every charge. However, when the team is given partial power to run themselves, the leader actually gains more power because of the mutual trust with the team.

  • “Ds” like to be in charge, but letting their team members take ownership helps develop the next generation of leaders. They should be patient with mistakes.
  • “Is” love to be in the spotlight and can drive others away from them, so they need to let others shine too. They will be appreciated for helping others be seen.
  • “Ss” wary of change, thus sharing the part of the management role with others who are more open to change will help them look supportive.
  • “Cs” strive for perfection, so will have to make room for team members to make mistakes. They should ask the team for their thoughts.

3. Leaders take responsibility. Managers find fault.

Managers may not want to look bad and will search for a scapegoat. Leaders know that at the end of the day, there was probably something more they could have done to prepare the team.

  • “Ds” are decisive and can own up to their mistakes, but can become defensive quickly. If they acknowledge their error, their action bias will quickly put it in the past.
  • “Is” don’t want to look bad, so will have to develop a thicker skin to be able to step up and say, “this is my fault.”
  • “Ss” are the most natural style to take responsibility, but if it’s a part of a change effort, they may run and hide. They should flex their “bold” side at those times.
  • “Cs” can revert to their data and information as a defense rather than being accountable. When they set aside their need for order, they’ll be seen as vulnerable (in a good way) and score points with the team.

Becoming a manager is usually associated with having knowledge about process, policies, and performance metrics. Evolving into an effective leader takes introspection into one’s self, making changes, and improving how they interact with others. The DISC Leadership Report is a solid first step to developing a manager’s leadership skills.


Picture of Michael Dattilio

Written by: Michael Dattilio

Michael Dattilio enjoys focusing on the interactions of parts in any system, be it a team, a process, or an organization to help create simple solutions to sometimes complex challenges. Personality Style: D