Many people often confuse the concepts of leadership and management (Stanley, 2006). While some believe they are the same, others think they are unrelated (Lopez, 2014). This debate/confusion traverses across different disciplines, including economics, public service, governance, and social sciences. In the nursing field, it has emerged through the blurred lines between nursing management roles and senior management roles, which have led to a loss of clear nursing leadership in the field (Stanley, 2006).
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This confusion has further led to the failure of many nursing professionals to understand the roles of nursing managers and nursing leaders. Stanley (2006) weighs in on this argument by saying that complexity, loss of focus, and role overlaps between managers and leaders in the nursing field have exacerbated this problem. The same reasons have led some nursing managers to say that they feel disempowered and less satisfied with their jobs and roles (Stanley, 2006). Similarly, the same problem has created issues of low employee retention numbers. This paper explains the differences between leadership and management and highlights how both concepts relate to the APRN field. From this background, we demonstrate that good leaders need both excellent leadership and management skills.
What is the Difference between the Two Concepts?
The Manager is the “Action Character,” while the Leader is the “Action Creator”
Generally, leaders formulate a vision for an organization, while managers implement the same vision. Stated differently, a leader would set a direction for other people to follow, while the manager would develop a plan to stick to this direction. Here, a leader could say, “Get everybody together because I want to share some great news about the direction we would follow,” while a manager could probably send a memo to employees indicating when they should meet and what they would discuss in the meeting. Based on this difference, the manager is the “action character,” while the leader is the “action creator.”
Leaders have people who follow them, while Managers have People who Work for them
Leaders have people who follow them because their followers buy into their vision, while managers have followers who choose to work for them to get a pay, or reward, at the end of the month, or a contractual period (Lopez, 2014).
Leaders Encourage employees, while managers instruct employees
The main role of leaders is to motivate or empower, their followers to work on their vision. Comparatively, managers instruct employees to do the same. The latter often uses punishment, or reward, to accomplish their goals, while leaders often use persuasion to achieve the same goals (Anderson, 2012).
Leaders chart new Growth, while Managers meet Expectations
One primary responsibility of a leader is to chart new directions for employees to follow because they are visionaries. They usually take risks in doing so (Stanley, 2006). Comparatively, managers meet specific goals because they are stuck on one objective. Once they meet such an objective, their work ends (Anderson, 2012).
Application to Nursing
Generally, nursing is a social discipline. Since people are involved and interpersonal relationships are a central focus of concern in this discipline, the concepts of leadership and management are relevant. The differences between leadership and management (described in this paper) apply to nursing because, although nurses could be great leaders, they could be bad managers as well. The inverse is also true because great managers are not necessarily great leaders. From this analogy, it is easy to understand the role of nurse leaders because they do not necessarily enjoy designated authority as nurse managers do.
Instead, they get a following because they inspire, motivate, and influence others to do what they want. Relative to this understanding, many nursing literatures point out that great nursing leaders have good communication and interpersonal skills (Stanley, 2006; Anderson, 2012). Comparatively, nursing managers get their following through an authority designated to them by a person of higher standing. Therefore, they usually enjoy designated positions in an organization and are required to carry out specific duties or tasks by their superiors. Some key responsibilities include process control and decision-making. This group of professionals is also good at coordinating activities in an organization.
Although it is difficult to ignore the above-mentioned differences between leadership and management, it is pertinent to understand that leadership and management roles may overlap. The ideal situation for APRN practitioners is to nurture both qualities. This is why I believe that the best nursing professionals are both leaders and managers. Since there is a need to strike a balance between doing the right thing and doing things right, there is also a strong need to have both leadership and management skills in nursing.
Relative to this assertion, Anderson (2012) says, “Critical thinking skills, active listening skills, and good coping skills are essential at all levels in today’s nursing workforce” (p. 3). Therefore, both leaders and managers need to envision the future. A person does not have to fit one category to do so. Comprehensively, although this paper points out that there could be a tug-of-war between leadership and management in the nursing field; this need not be the case as there is room for the two.
Anderson, L. (2012). The Difference between Nurse Leadership vs. Management.
Lopez, R. (2014). The Relationship between Leadership and Management: Instructional Approaches and its Connections to Organizational Growth. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 6(1), 98-112.
Stanley, D. (2006). Role Conflict: Leaders and Managers. Nursing Management, 13(5), 31-37.