Developing Leadership and Management Skills: Key Strategies and Tools

The phenomena of leadership and management intersect at several points, which often leads to people conflating the two notions. However, leadership and management services pursue different goals, which becomes clear from the existing definitions of the phenomena at hand. The difference between leadership and management becomes more evident after considering several approaches toward their interpretation in modern scholarly sources.

The comparatively recent tendency to view leadership as an opportunity to foster change by influencing staff members’ attitudes and changing their perception of their work and development opportunities is one of the comparison axes. Applying the notion of the Transformational Leadership style as the strategy for promoting change in people’s behaviors and attitudes will show that the shift in perspective is required to help people to develop an incentive for professional growth (Harrison, 2017). The concept of Transformational Leadership is often juxtaposed to the Transactional one, which is focused primarily on coordinating the completion of tasks (Harrison, 2017). The latter approach the typical definition of management as it is contrasted to the idea of leadership as guidance and focus on professional change (Harrison, 2017). Namely, the Transactional Leadership strategy aligns with the perception of management as the process of supervising and organizing crucial processes within an organization (Harrison, 2017).

Another way of viewing leadership suggests that it needs to be interpreted as the potential for achieving specific organizational goals, whereas management is deemed to be the actual process of attaining the goals in question. The suggested method of distinguishing leadership and management contains an implicit idea of management being more action-oriented, whereas leadership is restricted to the realm of theory (Cole, 2018). Typically aligned with the tenets of the Style Theory, which reduces management to task-related behaviors and leadership to relationships-based behaviors, the suggested way of looking at the two notions might seem as narrow and lacking in insight.

In this context, the Situational Leadership style needs to be addressed as the extension of the Contingency Theory. In fact, the described framework echoes the Contingency Model of Management, which also suggests that a good manager needs to act according to the circumstances and focus on accomplishing corporate goals by managing the relationships between staff members and reducing the threat of conflicts (Cole, 2018). Consequently, the proposed point of view implies defining leadership as the ability to choose an appropriate course of actions based on the immediate and long-term needs of stakeholders (Cole, 2018). However, when considering a proper counterpart to the Situational Leadership, one should select the Systems Theory of management instead since it suggests embracing every element of the corporate mechanism, thus, allowing a manager to act based on the outcomes that the chosen course of actions will have on different aspects of a company’s performance (Cole, 2018). Thus, management can be defined as the ability to embrace the complexity of the organizational processes in their entirety and navigate them accordingly by making appropriate decisions (Cole, 2018).

Finally, the Skills Theory, which can be considered an extension of and a correction to the Traits Theory, implies that the ability to lead stems from several key habits and skills that can be acquired and need to be practiced when approaching relevant corporate issues. In fact, with its focus on discovering and fostering the development of the abilities and competencies that define a good leader, the Skills Theory allows building an effective leader.

As explained above, the phenomena of leadership and management are distinctively unique and have to be separated from each other in order to run a company successfully. However, severally parallels can be drawn between the two notions. Depending on the theoretical framework and perspective applied to the two notions, various differences can be found. Traditionally, the main distinction centers around the fact that, unlike managers, who simply have to convince people to perform their roles, leaders are expected to change employees’ attitudes and behaviors by convincing staff members to follow their example (Sutton, 2018). The described difference aligns with the concept of Transformational versos Transactional approach dichotomy, emphasizing that the latter is more akin to the managerial strategy.

The specified way of looking at leadership and management can be justified form the perspective of corporate needs. On the one hand, a company requires staff members who are highly motivated and willing to engage in self-directed learning, for which the Transformational framework is needed. On the other hand, it is crucial for a firm to have compliant staff members who have accepted the corporate values and are ready to apply them to company-related decision-making. Thus, while the manner tackles the latter aspect, the leader deals with the former, each performing a unique function in the organizational setting. At the same time, according to the specified principle, both a leader and a manager strive to attain the same purpose of meeting the corporate objectives.

Although it is commonly believed that the task of motivating staff members and keeping their engagement rates high should be associated mostly with leadership, a manager can also introduce strategies that allow maintaining employees’ engagement and loyalty to the company at a decent level. In fact, the issue of employee engagement remains one of the primary concerns in implementing key managerial functions, namely, controlling performance and maintaining its quality high (Sutton, 2018). Therefore, attributing the issue of motivation solely to leaders would be a mistake, although they clearly have an important role in keeping the extent of staff embers’ enthusiasm.

One might claim that the distinction to be made between leadership and management as it pertains to the issue of employee engagement concerns determining the problem and creating a strategy, and implementing it by offering a role model to follow. While the latter is more characteristic of a leader, specifically, the one with a Charismatic or Transformational Leadership style, the former is traditionally carried out by managers (Sutton, 2018). Therefore, the difference between leadership and management may lie in the line between the theoretical approach toward managing staff members and the practical implementation of the chosen framework. However, unlike in other cases, the one that involves providing a role model implies that a manager should perform the tasks associated with data collection, analysis, and theory development, whereas a leader should be the one that actually implements it and offers staff members a role model of which they can make an example. The proposed approach toward differentiating between a leader and a manager allow for the company to invest in the progress and professional growth of its staff members.

Education-Based Programs

Although several theories based on the tenets of the Trait Leadership framework suggest that leaders are born and not made, the current standpoint suggests that the exact opposite is true. Thus, several approaches toward building leaders and managers have been devised accordingly based on the corresponding theoretical tenets.

Creating opportunities for developing leadership skills is the most obvious yet also the most efficient strategy for creating leaders in the workplace. Specifically, one will need to delegate responsibilities to staff members more often and assign relevant tasks to team members so that they could explore their leadership potential.

Education-based programs are the most common tools for developing leaders and managers. Education-based programs provide participants with the required theoretical knowledge, offer sufficient training, and create a potential for future development of skills. However, education-based approaches typically lack the practical aspect, thus failing to help participants to see how theory transforms into action.

Job Rotation

Job rotation is another tool typically used for developing leaders and managers. Also representing a very effective cost saving technique, job rotation allows familiarizing staff members with new roles and responsibilities, thus expanding their knowledge of the leadership function and the key processes within an organization. However, job rotation also requires training so that staff members could build the required skill set fast enough.


Another framework for building leadership and management skills, coaching provides a plethora of opportunities for building the skills of a leader or a manager. Coaching provides close supervision of a manager or a leader’s progress, allowing the participants to receive detailed feedback. However, coaching is a very time-consuming process, which is a definite disadvantage.


Finally, mentoring deserves to be listed as one of the key strategies for promoting leadership and management skills development. Mentoring allows one to gain a sense of how organizational culture can be built. However, mentoring may also lead to a mentee accepting the proposed direction without adjusting it to their specific characteristic. Thus, the developed leadership or management framework may prove inefficient.

Example 1: L&D and Professional Growth (from Both Leadership and Managerial Perspectives)

The significance of the Learning and Development (L&D) function has increased exponentially since the recent discovery of the role that effective talent management has on a company’s competitive advantage. For leadership, the focus on the L&D function is instrumental since it allows staff members to develop the urge to continue their professional development and gain new competencies. For example, in the scenario where a company focuses on innovation and effective talent management, the focus on continuous improvement and the development of professional qualities that leadership strives to encourage, such as self-directed learning, responsibility, and professionalism, become possible.

Example 2: L&D and Employee Engagement as a Crucial Aspect of the Managerial Function

In turn, the emphasis on L&D also plays an important role in supporting the managerial function by providing managers with an opportunity to keep employees engaged and invested in the company’s performance. This example considers the scenario in which employee engagement as a managerial issue and employee motivation as a leadership-related one need to be increased. Since the promotion of L&D serves as shorthand for conveying the appreciation of a company for its staff’s professional development and skills, it boosts employees’ loyalty and at the same time supports talent management (Dragoni et al., 2014). Therefore, for the managerial function, the support of the L&D function is essential.

Example 3. L&D and Workplace Ethics

Remarkably, the L&D function can endorse and encourage workplace learning among staff members, which will provide opportunities for leaders and managers alike. Taking a situation in which workplace ethics is often neglected by staff members, one may consider the application of L&D function to address the specified issue form a leadership and managerial perspective. As a leader, one can use the L&D function to promote a change in people’s attitudes and the development of workplace responsibility, corporate ethics, transparency, cooperation, and shared learning. Namely, with the focus on the L&D function, a leader can promote the idea of lifelong professional development to employees, whereas a manager can coordinate this process in the organizational setting.

In addition, the L&D for leaders will help to change the trajectory of employees’ development by offering them the notion of self-directed learning. Studies show that a range of staff members need active support of their organizations to continue their professional development since they do not have a clear course of their own (Dragoni et al., 2014). In turn, the promotion of L&D will allow leaders to introduce employees to the idea of self-directed professional growth, allowing them to choose their own path toward professional development and map their progress accordingly (Dragoni et al., 2014).

Example 4. L&D and Quality Management as an Essential Aspect of a Leadership and Managerial Function

For managers, the L&D function can help extend the process of improving quality management and adherence to the existing performance standards. Using the example of a workplace setting where quality assurance is often overlooked by the staff, one may apply L&D as a manager or a leader to enhance performance efficacy. Namely, with the emphasis on L&D as the key direction in which a firm will be taking its progress, managers will be able to focus on promoting the development of skills that will allow improving the quality of the end product or service. Thus, the L&D function can encourage a more coherent managerial approach in quality management. Likewise, a leader can use L&D to set an example of learning to apply appropriate skills for maintaining high-quality performance and promote it to staff members.

Example 5. L&D and Employee Engagement as a Part of the Leadership and Management Function

Finally, L&D will serve as the basis for exerting support for staff members in their endeavor to develop new talents, which aligns with the goals of managers to boost the levels of loyalty toward the company in employees, as well as those of leaders regarding the change in staff members’ perspective. Using an example of an organization where employee engagement rates are low, one may use the L&D framework from a leadership and managerial perspective to incite excitement in staff members. With the adoption of L&D-based principles of management and leadership, a company is expected to gain devoted staff willing to learn and explore their talents, which will have a tremendously positive effect on the goals of management regarding quality control and those of leadership concerning the development of trust between a form and its staff.

Leadership and management development programs are quite numerous and diverse, yet their efficacy may vary considerably depending on how well they meet the key criteria for success. The awareness of participants and their willingness to contribute to the program is an absolute and indisputable necessity when it comes to the implementation of a program based on an innovative management or leadership solution. Namely, the members of a group that represents a program in question are supposed to familiarize themselves with its goals and main premise, as well as agree with it.

As a rule, several indicators of success are identified when approaching the issues of leadership and management. Key employee retention (KER) is typically utilized when evaluating the efficacy of leadership and management programs. As a measurement tool, KER is quite useful since it allows quantifying the outcomes of a leadership or management program. However, it also fails to capture the change in people’s attitudes, pointing primarily to the changes in the performance rates (). Therefore, additional tools for measuring the efficacy of management and leadership programs is required.

The use of participant satisfaction surveys can also be considered a proper tool for measuring the success of a leadership or management program. Unlike KER, which offer mostly performance-related data, surveys provide an insight into the attitudes of program participants. Thus, a proper understanding of the key ideas of the program and the ability to apply them to specific workplace settings can be detected with the help of surveys.

Individual performance evidence can also be utilized to ensure that the appropriate leadership or management program has had the desired effect on participants’ skills. Although individual performance assessment takes much time to conduct, it provides very detailed and specific results that inform the further course of the program development.

Finally, one may consider using interviews as the means of determining the effects of a leadership or management program. Granted that the information obtained from interviews is likely to be subjective and may be misinterpreted by the interviewer, it will still help to receive general feedback that will define the further development of similar programs.

Based on the criteria listed above, it will be legitimate to claim that the specified programs can lead to success once the methods such as the focus on stakeholder mapping, the willingness to appeal to culture-specific needs of staff members, and the development of an effective communication channel are included into the list of approaches toward implementing these programs. The rationale for including each of the strategies above is quite obvious.

Stakeholder mapping allows creating a clear understanding of the key agents in the corporate relationships and hierarchy. Thus, leaders and managers can have a clear perspective of what goals they must achieve and how they can meet the said goals. Stakeholder mapping offers leaders and managers a people-oriented perspective, which is why it is particularly effective as a training mechanism in a skill development program.

The creation of a communication channel as the tool for receiving feedback from staff member and providing them with an adequate response that meets their needs will show staff members that their voices are heard and that the company is ready to address their concerns. The development of strategies for enhancing employee retention is another important measure for keeping the management and leadership programs successful. Since employee retention is linked directly to the extent of staff members’ motivation and loyalty to the company, maintaining the environment in which they are willing to stay is crucial. Moreover, with the ever-changing staff and a high rate of turnover, the opportunities for promoting corporate values will be significantly diminished. The use of communication channels will provide detailed information that will allow managers to improve their decision-making skills, thus understanding how different organizational processes and performance aspects are interrelated. In turn, leaders can use the specified data to shape their strategy so that it could appeal to staff members and inspire them.

Finally, appealing to culture-specific needs of employees is another measure that needs to be taken in earnest as a crucial step toward implementing the intended leadership and management programs. By focusing on culture-specific requirements of staff members, a company shows its readiness to promote diversity and accept the opinions and philosophies of its employees as equally valid and important. Thus, the development of trust between a company and its staff becomes possible. The described change will help to introduce the leadership models that employees will be willing to follow, thus enhancing the efficacy of leadership. In addition, the transition to a culture-specific approach will allow building the set of guidelines that a manager can convince staff members to follow, thus ensuring an effective management approach.


Cole, K. (2018). Leadership and management: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Cengage Learning.

Dragoni, L., Oh, I. S., Tesluk, P. E., Moore, O. A., VanKatwyk, P., & Hazucha, J. (2014). Developing leaders’ strategic thinking through global work experience: The moderating role of cultural distance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(5), 867-882.

Harrison, C. (2017). Leadership theory and research: A critical approach to new and existing paradigms. Springer.

Sutton, A. (2018). People, management and organizations. Palgrave.

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