Are you a manager or leader? Which should you strive to be? And what’s the difference?

Retailers often ask us whether their learning and development strategies should center around management or leadership skills. In many industries, those lines of responsibilities are clear and specific, so separating the two makes sense.

But retail is unique. More often than not, the question isn’t manager or leader. It’s how to develop people who can do both well.

Managing Retail Performance 

Retail management requires a steady hand on consistent execution of the standards and procedures so that the customer experience builds loyalty while the company brand is strengthened. Among other things, this means you have to be able to:

  • clarify expectations
  • give feedback effectively
  • provide training to build competence
  • measure progress against goals

In other words, to be a good retail manager, you need to keep a sharp focus on performance, managing effectively to achieve results.

Leading the Retailer’s Future

Management is about the day-to-day, but leadership is future focused. Rather than being about performance, it’s about potential.

As a leader, if I’m aware that my team can accomplish more and reach new levels of performance, that’s a vision I need to share and inspire within them. Effective retail leadership requires:

  • keeping an eye on the long term
  • opening people up to new possibilities—even ones that seem impossible today
  • innovating the future
  • encouraging people to stretch and grow

This dual focus is a good thing. Building on consistent execution with innovation ensures we stay competitive and ahead of the curve.

So the question isn’t whether retailers should focus on developing good managers or good leaders. The question is how to get your people to manage and lead every single day.

What are some of the characteristics of your best managers who lead? Tweet us @mohrretail.


About Michael Patrick

Michael held positions in retail management, merchandising, and human resources before joining MOHR Retail’s predecessor in 1986. In 1990 he purchased the retail division of that firm to form today’s MOHR Retail. Michael holds true to his retail roots by delivering learning that changes behavior—providing both immediate and lasting business impact. In addition to facilitating MOHR Retail training programs, he offers executive-level coaching in one-on-one sessions dealing with critical strategic issues such as succession strategies and executive team development. The author of “The New Negotiation Mindset: Guarantee A Bigger Slice,” Michael is a longstanding member of NRF as well as ISA: The Association of Learning Providers. He has a B.A. from San Diego State University, completed Master’s level work at Arizona State University, and lives with his family in New Jersey.