Retail Managers: Here’s the Difference Between Management and Leadership


The day-to-day responsibilities of a retail manager are to plan, organize, execute, and monitor the store; these are functions of management. That being said, you need to know the difference between management and leadership in order to become a top manager in the retail industry. Most retail managers maintain the status quo by focusing on the list of responsibilities laid out for them in their job description. Alternatively, high performing retail managers go above and beyond, “raising the bar” by taking actionable steps to improve as a leader.

Develop your leadership as a manager by becoming people-oriented, not just tactics-oriented. As a manager, you must:

  1. Genuinely care about the people on your team.
  2. Show those individuals you care – using recognition and appreciation to reinforce great work.

Not just a manager, but a leader too

You can’t expect to grow in profitability if your daily habits reflect someone just trying to “check the boxes”, maintain norms, and keep the store afloat. Maintaining the standards/conditions of your store is a good start, but seasoned and successful store managers realize sooner than later that it’s the people on your team that determine the success of your store. This requires a leader. 

Become a great retail manager by sharing your experiences

Develop your leadership skillset by frequently training and coaching your team. Your perspective about customer service, sales, and products/displays are helpful insights to share with your employees. You know the ins and outs of the retail business. Leverage this personal experience of yours by providing it to your team as learning opportunities. There’s a lesson in every story.

“It’s the thought that counts” doesn’t apply here. Your actions must show you’re interested in the personal and professional success of your employees. When team members accomplish a goal you outlined for them or exceed your expectations, celebrate their effort publicly. 

Reflect on your career and your journey to becoming a retail manager. You worked hard to get where you are. How would it have felt to receive more acknowledgment from your manager on your way up? Put yourself in the shoes of your employees. Think about the impact of recognition and appreciation from a relationship standpoint. Relationships without expressed appreciation only go downhill. The same is true for how you interact with your employees. 

Evaluate yourself often

Yes, you’re a manager, but you need to evaluate often by asking yourself this question: “Am I a leader?” Remember, strong leaders continually train, develop and invest in their staff. How much does it cost to tell someone they’re doing great work? Can you put a price tag on encouraging and motivating your hardest working team members? 

To learn more, read here about the success of leaders who are actively implementing strong leadership right now.

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