At a certain point in your career path, you are expected to have a set of skills that allows you to continue to climb the career ladder. Generally, if you are at the higher steps, management and leadership skills are at the top of the qualifications list. Their meanings are likely interchangeable for the majority of us, but an enlightening piece by the Harvard Business Review explains how they are two very different concepts inside an organization.

To sum up:

  • Management. All those practical tasks like budgeting, planning, defining strategies, directing and monitoring the work of a team, measuring performance and, ultimately, taking corrective action when necessary. This is a crucial role, especially if we talk about senior management.
  • Leadership. Has more to do with attitude than with concrete duties. As the article says, “leadership is about vision”, which in the business arena especially means taking an organization into the future, by seizing opportunities and producing changes. Leadership is also connected to the concept of empowerment, which is essential in human resources. The stage in my professional life where I had to significantly grow and strengthen my leadership skills was when I joined Marcegaglia. I had a team to manage and coordinate and I needed to choose what kind of “boss” I wanted to be. I went for empowerment. In my experience, one of the key elements that make you a successful leader is guiding people through example. You empower them step-by-step: at first you work alongside them and you carry out tasks together, then you leave them to roll along on their own. Thus you help them develop their competencies and, at the same time, you earn authority and credibility.

One point I would like to add about leadership is that isn’t necessarily something you have in your DNA: nobody is self-taught. I’ve actually learned and developed the so-called “soft skills” through coaching and leadership courses, which I highly recommend for anyone aspiring to build a career and even for personal growth reasons. One of the lessons I especially put into practice every day is to, as a leader, draw pleasure and satisfaction when you see people around you grow and reach their goals.

 

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