Are you a leader or a manager? This deceptively simple question leaves many construction professionals scratching their heads. It’s common for leadership and management to be used interchangeably. While both concepts involve guiding a company forward, there are some foundational differences. If you confuse being a leader with being a manager (or vice versa), you run the risk of failing at both. Parsing out these crucial roles can keep your construction company running smoothly and productively.
Leadership is responsible for creating a vision for the company, motivating employees to pursue it, and chartering a path to reach that ultimate objective. Those in leadership positions take a broad view of the business to make sure everything falls in line with the organization’s stated purpose and goals. They tend not to be involved with the nitty-gritty of the daily operations, unlike their managerial counterparts.
The easiest way to think about management is as the primary connection between leadership and the rest of the company. While leaders are focused more on the big-picture aspects of the company, managers are spending their time on the day-to-day operations. They’re responsible for communicating upper-level decisions, implementing strategies in a “top-down” manner, and ensuring the rest of the company carries out their responsibilities.
Enough with the abstract talk. Understanding the difference between leadership and management requires some digging in the dirt. There are some concrete areas where these two roles clearly depart, leaving construction chiefs with greater clarity.
Generally speaking, leadership engages more with people and management deals more with processes. For example, while a leader might focus broadly on aligning the company culture with its goals, a manager would be dealing with the specific operations that would eventually bring about those cultural changes. Similarly, while leaders are concerned with building and maintaining relationships with clients in general, managers are making the company is delivering on all customer expectations.
Leaders and managers operate on different time horizons. While leaders need to think long-term and big-picture, managers are dealing with the short-term, day-to-day. In practical terms, leadership is concerned with meeting monthly, yearly, and multi-year objectives while management is meeting hourly, daily, and weekly deadlines. Together, these various outlooks combine to progressively move a company toward success.
Construction companies need a healthy mixture of stability and development to make sure operations run smoothly while still leaving room for improvement. This is another balancing act between leaders and managers where the former focuses on innovation and novelty while the latter deals with consistency and the status quo. When leadership makes a change, management will relay the message to everyone else.
Another crucial distinction between these two roles lies in the connection with employees. Leaders tend to have less contact with craftsmen as their position is concerned with giving inspiration and motivation when needed. On the other hand, managers are constantly interacting with the team, giving daily updates and directions.
Further Reading: How to Improve Onsite Collaboration
Leadership and management might be different processes, but that doesn’t mean they’re in opposition to each other. The heads of successful construction companies exercise both in a complementary way to keep their organizations headed in the right direction while ensuring their team is working towards that end goal on a daily basis. It’s important to note that construction professionals can assume both leadership and management roles.
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