IT Management and IT Leadership – What’s the Difference?

Employer Insights

IT Management and IT Leadership

The concepts of IT management and IT leadership often get used interchangeably, but they both have distinct characteristics, and it’s important to understand what separates them. We have put together this list of binary concepts to help you understand the difference between IT managers and IT leaders, and why both are necessary for the success of any IT project.

Today vs. Tomorrow

IT management is focused on the day to day and the short term. It keeps a team or a company focused on the most urgent goals and establishes clear metrics for success or failure. IT leadership, by contrast, looks further down the road. It is less concerned with meeting the most immediate target, and more concerned with the details of the next project, product, or growth strategy.

Practical vs. Possible

IT management has to be practical if it is going to be effective. It is the job of managers to keep projects on budget, teams properly staffed, goals clearly defined, and threats properly understood. IT leadership is practical too, but more willing to stretch the boundaries and bend the supports. Instead of asking “what must be done” it asks “what could be done.” It is the job of IT leaders to keep companies innovative and riding the crest of technical change.

Problems vs. Solutions

IT management is there to analyze the scope of problems as soon as they arise and find the most reasonable means of responding to them. IT leadership is tasked with finding long-term solutions that prevent problems from starting in the first place.

Command vs. Cooperate

Managers do not have to rule with an iron fist, but it is ultimately their responsibility to assign people tasks and create consequences if those tasks aren’t completed. The process is necessarily hierarchical, and information flows downward on a need-to-know basis. But in order for IT leadership to be successful, it has to foster cooperation and integrate a multitude of voices and opinions. Leaders guide the course of change, and if the people beneath them are not willing and active participants in that evolution, success is impossible.

The final and most important point is that IT management and IT leadership are not in conflict. Without one, the other could not be successful. Managers thrive because they have leaders pushing the company forward. Leaders thrive because they can rely on management to keep everyone on task. The two approaches are complementary opposites. Partner with the staffing specialists at INSPYR Solutions, and find the resources you need to build a dynamic IT workforce.

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