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Leadership vs. Management

Originally published: 01.01.19 by Mike Moore

Leadership vs. Management

It’s the ability to motivate and inspire employees that makes a leader, and not only a manager.


As a professional in the HVACR industry, you know that we’re facing a talent shortage for vital roles, such as installers and maintenance technicians. You may also have noticed that many organizations (not just in HVACR) are dealing with a leadership gap.

According to “Global Human Capital Trends 2016”, a Deloitte report, “Millennials now make up more than half the workforce….” In itself, there might not be anything remarable about that stat. Generations shift, and younger workers take the place of those who are retiring. However, we’re talking about leadership.

As you look at your company, and where you are in your own career, you might be wondering how to guide up-and-coming partners or employees to help steer the ship in the future.

A 2016 white paper from the Human Resources Professional Association, indicated that “63 percent of Millennials feel their employers are not fully developing their leadership skills.”

If more than half of our workers belong to a generation sometimes loosely defined as having been born sometime between 1980 and 2000, and most of those who are working have concerns about developing their leadership potential, today’s managers and employers should take note.

Out of necessity, these are the people who will inherit, buy, or move up in your company. Since you probably need to help develop them, it’s helpful to understand what defines a leader.

What’s the Difference?

If you’re a manager, you’re in a leadership position, so of course leadership and management go together. They aren’t the same thing, however. The main difference between the two is how you motivate people.

The main role of management is to make sure the work gets done. A manager:

  • Administers, and makes sure the day-to-day tasks are accomplished.
  • Plans, organizes and coordinates.
  • Holds a position of authority within the company.
  • Has subordinates, who are largely expected to do as directed.
  • Is paid to get things done and is usually subordinate to someone.
  • Often has to work within tight financial and time constraints.
  • Generally designates the focus for their subordinates.

Managers fill a critical role. Strong managers exhibit these important characteristics:

Executing the Vision. The ability to take a strategic vision and break it down into a roadmap for the team.

Ability to direct. Managing the day-to-day work and also anticipating needs.

Process focus. Establishing policies, processes, standards and operating procedures.

Employee focus. Managing people also means looking after them and their needs, listening, and involving them whenever possible.

For most HVACR business owners or general managers, filling the role of manager means generating revenue, assigning work and financially managing the company. Growing a business and keeping it profitable requires tremendous time, energy and stamina, and it can seem natural to focus on the work that needs to be done, rather than the people who will be doing the work.

This is where leadership comes in. A leader:

  • Innovates, inspires and motivates.
  • Typically does not see others as subordinates when leading, but does have subordinates when managing.
  • Has followers. Following is a voluntary activity, and is different from subordinates obeying orders.
  • Has the ability to appeal to people, so they will want to stop and pay attention, and may be willing to encounter tasks or situations they’d normally balk at (for example, a large project on a tight deadline).
  • Is good with people and shares credit for successes, which creates loyalty.
  • Communicates the vision in a way that employees understand and believe in, so they adopt company goals.

It’s not always easy to motivate a workforce, and sometimes there’s a lack of commitment to quality. Before exclaiming, “Good help is hard to find!” consider the question from an employee’s point of view:

“As an employee, why should I work hard to create wealth for the business owner?” This brings us back to those stats about Millennials. Whatever your outlook is, the majority of younger workers aren’t sufficiently motivated by simply having a job. They want to feel valued, and also fulfilled by the work they do.

To make your business successful in the long term, it’s important to nurture leadership traits in yourself and in potential leaders for your company’s future.

Strong leaders show these key qualities:

Honesty, integrity and ethical values. Naturally, these are required if you want employees to believe in your goals, and follow you on the journey.

Level-headedness. Don’t let emotions affect your ability to perform your job.

Vision. Know where you are and where you want to go, and enlist your team to chart a path to get there. This involves developing a well-thought-out and realistic idea of what can be achieved in the future, and the best way to do it.

Inspiration. Help your team to be all they can be, by making sure they understand their roles in the big picture. Leaders are motivational when interacting with employees, take a proactive approach, and develop a culture of hard work and commitment. They also tend to be extremely energetic.

Ability to challenge. Be willing to examine the way things are, and have the courage to think creatively in order to achieve goals.

Communication skills. This one is big. Keep your team informed of where the company is, where it’s headed and any roadblocks it may face along the way to fulfilling your vision. You also need to listen to your followers’ ideas, suggestions and opinions. Be willing to adopt new ways of doing things if it will benefit the company, and create an environment of mutual respect that will allow the team to rise to new challenges.

Capacity to understand people. You need a clear understanding of human behavior and the ability to develop open and honest relationships with team members. Psychology degrees are not required. Getting to know your team will help you to understand their abilities, concerns, interests and motivations.

Self-confidence and self-awareness. Remain confident and show that you can handle challenges and pressure. This is easiest if you know your own strengths and weaknesses, and are flexible and willing to continually improve your knowledge and skills.

Effective team-building. This means seeing the potential in employees and successfully placing them in positions where their skills and talent can best help the team. Of course, no team is perfect, so resolving disputes and encouraging debate and fresh ideas are also important for leaders.


Leaders give the team direction to achieve company goals. For instance, telling service technicians to get more maintenance agreements or to turn over more equipment sales leads won’t make those things happen. To cultivate employee commitment to your company vision and business model, you have to start by winning their loyalty. One of the best ways to do this is to demonstrate that you have your team’s best interests in mind.

Employees in general and younger generations in particular, need their managers not just to assign tasks, but also to define the purpose and benefits in completing them. This takes leadership.

As an HVACR company owner or general manager, you need to have both strong management skills and leadership traits. This means:

  • Creating an inspiring vision of the future.
  • Motivating and inspiring others to participate in that vision.
  • Managing communication about the vision.
  • Building and coaching teams to achieve the vision.

Vision, Again?

It’s almost impossible to talk about leadership, or about building a successful business, without discussing vision. That’s because a compelling vision (or overarching idea of what you want to achieve in the long term) sets the foundation for leadership. It’s the ability to motivate and inspire employees that makes a leader, and not only a manager.

To build the kind of business that lasts into future generations (or even a few decades), you need to get employees to buy into your vision. Then, you can help to align their perceptions and behaviors. Your team needs to get excited about the direction you’re taking them in, and know what’s in it for them.

Of course, it’s highly unlikely that you have all the time to spend on inspiring and motivating. You need to manage day-to-day activities, and make sure the work actually gets done. And that’s not all. A good manager not only oversees employee productivity and efficiency; it’s also vital to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.

Leadership is Learned

Creating an organization where employees want to follow your lead requires having leadership skills. If improving these traits in yourself, or coaching possible up-and-coming leaders seem daunting, it’s okay. Remember this: contrary to what some people may believe, leaders are not just born. Like any skill, leadership must be learned and practiced. Leaders also display different qualities depending on the situation. They use these qualities to gain employees’ trust, respect and commitment, and to motivate them to achieve the company goals and vision.


About Mike Moore

Mike Moore wasn’t just an HVACR expert; he was also a caring leader with a passion for employee training for the HVACR industry. As one of the Lennox Learning Solutions founders, he was focused on helping HVACR leaders, salespeople and technicians to grow their businesses and develop their skills. Though Mike is no longer with us, his professional legacy lives on in the many lives and businesses he has impacted, and in those he led and inspired. For additional information about Lennox Learning Solutons, visit

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