Difference between the leadership & manager roles in the healthcare

Many a times we use the words leadership and management interchangeably, thinking them to be synonymous when they actually are not. Though leadership and management, for the smooth functioning of an organization, must go hand in hand, they have very diverse roles.

The role of a manager has been defined to be more administrative, someone who oversees tasks that have been already set, while a leader is more innovative and creates instructions or commands for tasks to be carried out.

 1- These major differences in roles and the part a manager and leader has to play are not quite as well appreciated by healthcare staff than as they should. Often doctors or nurses who assume the role of a manager end up practicing more dictatorship than that of a team player.

A manager is a team player too, just a notch higher. That does not just give him special rights, but also gives him greater responsibilities and shoes to fulfil.

This misconception or lack of knowledge is not the fault of these medical personnels as they are often not well aware about what their jobs are as entitled by their post. As an article pointed out, nurse managers are more than often less well prepared to manage the business activities that fall under their responsibility than the clinical activities they are used to doing. The results showed that nurse managers appear unsure about their executive futures.

2- Leadership on the other hand has been described as the behavior of an individual when directing the activities of a group toward a shared goal. This points out how vast the difference is that the leader is basically the one influencing all activities occurring in the hospital and deciding what new steps or changes are to be taken.

 3- The manager will then see to these steps and make sure the changes take place. Can you appreciate how vastly their administrative rights differ? And yet, often we end up mistaking the role of a manager for that of a leader.

A leader states the result, he needs and the manager has to find a way to achieve it. With a manager, the staff members often expect for them to be assigned tasks and to also be told the final purpose they are supposed to achieve. For instance, if the leader tells a manager to generate more revenue for the hospital from a particular department, the manager can tell a doctor to take minimum 25 patients per clinic so as to increase the revenue and yet keep the satisfaction on the patients optimum. This is what the doctor will do and the aim he will try to achieve. This agrees with the fact that managers organize the staff working under them to maximize the efficiency, and to nurture skills and talent to get better results.

Keeping these differences in mind, it is necessary for the managers of the hospital to tailor their roles and tasks accordingly, and for their workers to comply likewise. It is also advisable to seek advice or further guidance of something is uncertain as this is a new role, especially for health-related personnel’s.

  1.    Bennis WG. On becoming a leader. Basic Books; 1994.

    2.    Kleinman CS. Leadership roles, competencies, and education: How prepared are our nurse managers?. Journal of Nursing Administration. 2003 Sep 1;33(9):451-5.

    3.    Al-Sawai, A. (2013). Leadership of Healthcare Professionals: Where Do We Stand? Oman Medical Journal, 28(4), 285–287. http://doi.org/10.5001/omj.2013.79

Written by Dr. Aref Alabed ,