What the Difference Between Leadership and Management?

Defining Leadership and Management

What is Leadership?

Leadership is the building of motivation through individuals in aid of reaching a certain set of objectives. A good leader is someone who can lead to good results, by using what he has in the best way possible.

A good leader excels in using available resources, including team talents and organizational assets, in the most efficient way to achieve desired outcomes. Leadership is characterized by vision, innovation, and the ability to drive change. Leaders focus on creating a compelling future, challenging the status quo, and inspiring people to transcend their limitations.

They are not just focused on tasks but on people – understanding their needs, strengths, and aspirations, and harnessing these for the greater good of the organization. This aspect of leadership is crucial for fostering a culture of engagement, creativity, and continuous improvement.

What is Management ?

Management is the process of dealing with and controlling a certain task or person/people. It is primarily concerned with maintaining control and stability within an organization. It involves planning, organizing, directing, and controlling resources to achieve specific objectives.

Managers are responsible for ensuring that tasks are completed efficiently, policies are followed, and organizational goals are met. This process often involves dealing with complexities, solving problems, and making decisions that affect the daily operations of the organization.

Managers are key to maintaining order, ensuring consistency, and providing clear structure within which employees operate. They focus on optimizing processes, managing workflows, and ensuring that the organization runs as smoothly as possible.

Distinction Between Leadership and Management

Bennis and Nanus (1985) succinctly put it:

  • “Managers do things right, while leaders do the right things.”

This statement highlights the difference in focus between management and leadership. Management is about efficiency and doing things correctly according to established procedures and standards. Leadership, in contrast, is more about effectiveness, setting the right direction, and doing things that truly matter and make a difference.

And according to Kotter (1990):

  • Not all managers are leaders and, equally, not all leaders are managers

Kotter  emphasizes that not all managers are leaders, and not all leaders are managers. This distinction is important as it underscores the different roles and skills associated with each.

Managers are essential for maintaining the status quo and ensuring consistent performance, but they may not necessarily possess the vision or influence to drive significant change. Leaders, on the other hand, are catalysts for change, driving innovation and transformation, but they may not be involved in the day-to-day management of tasks and operations.

Managers slow things down. Leaders spark the business to run smoothly and quickly. Managers talk to one another, write memos to one another. Leaders talk to their employees, talk with their employees, filling them with vision, getting them to perform at levels they didn’t think possible (Transformational Leadership). Then they simply get out of the way (Contemporary Leadership).

In simple terms, management is there to enforce organizations are stable, structured and working correctly by problem solving within what they already have. Leadership looks into what is outside of the organization, trying to visualize the future and create changes to improve the organization. Management meets current objectives, leaders set objectives for the future.

Other Quotes Highlighting the Distinction between a Leader and a Manager

  • “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker
  • “Managers light a fire under people; leaders light a fire in people.” – Kathy Austin
  • “The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Leadership and Management Comparison Table



Planning and Budgeting
Setting detailed steps and allocating resources to achieve short-term goals. Focuses on adhering to organizational standards and making efficient use of resources.
Establishing Direction
Developing a vision for the future, setting long-term strategies, and identifying new opportunities. Focuses on visionary and strategic thinking to guide the organization’s direction.
Organization and Staffing
Structuring the organization, job roles, and staffing to ensure effective implementation of plans. Involves creating systems and processes that ensure smooth operation.
Aligning People
Communicating the vision and strategies, and inspiring people to embrace these goals. Focuses on building teams and fostering collaboration towards common objectives.
Controlling and Problem Solving
Monitoring results, identifying deviations from the plan, and resolving immediate problems. Involves analytical thinking and effective decision-making to maintain control.
Motivating and Inspiring
Energizing people to overcome barriers to change and engaging their commitment to achieve the vision. Focuses on emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.
Order and Predictability
Creating a stable environment with predictable results through standardization and procedures. Emphasizes consistency, reliability, and efficiency.
Encouraging innovation, adaptation, and rethinking traditional approaches. Emphasizes agility, creativity, and the ability to lead through transitions.

List of Key Differences

  • Leaders inspire and motivate; managers plan and organize.
  • Leaders establish vision and direction; managers set goals and objectives.
  • Leaders are change agents; managers maintain stability.
  • Leaders focus on innovation; managers focus on process.
  • Leaders build relationships; managers build systems and structures.
  • Leaders coach; managers direct.
  • Leaders influence and persuade; managers use authority and control.
  • Leaders foster creativity; managers enforce policy.
  • Leaders think long-term; managers focus on the short-term.
  • Leaders ask “why” and “what if”; managers ask “how” and “when”.
  • Leaders develop people; managers manage work.
  • Leaders are risk-takers; managers are risk-averse.
  • Leaders cultivate a shared vision; managers focus on achieving specific targets.
  • Leaders empower others; managers delegate tasks.
  • Leaders focus on people; managers focus on operations.
  • Leaders facilitate change; managers maintain the status quo.
  • Leaders are often charismatic; managers rely on their formal authority.
  • Leaders encourage new ideas; managers rely on existing practices.
  • Leaders embrace uncertainty; managers seek predictability.
  • Leaders create a culture of trust and collaboration; managers establish procedures and rules.


Q: What is the main difference between a leader and a manager?

A: The main difference lies in their approach and focus. Leaders inspire and motivate others towards a common vision, while managers plan and coordinate tasks to achieve specific goals.

Q: Can someone be both a leader and a manager?

A: Absolutely! There are individuals who possess qualities of both a leader and a manager. It is beneficial to have a combination of these skills within an organization.

Q: How can I improve my leadership and management skills?

A: Improving your skills requires self-reflection, seeking feedback, continuous learning, and practicing effective communication. Additionally, taking on new challenges and seeking growth opportunities will contribute to your development as a leader and manager.

Q: Can leadership skills be learned or are they innate?

A: While some individuals may naturally possess certain leadership qualities, leadership skills can be learned and developed through self-awareness, practice, and continuous learning.

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