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What is the difference between leadership and management?

What is the difference between leadership and management?

Two contrasting but vital roles for any business, learn the difference between leaders and managers and how both work together to motivate your team.

Both managers and leaders are essential roles in a thriving, successful business. They’re crucial in helping a business accomplish its vision and encouraging other employees to do their best and follow their experienced guidance.

Despite there being several similarities between the two, there are some key differences that make them unique. In this article, we will explore the difference between leadership and management, unpicking what they both are and learning how to become a better leader or manager in the process.

So, let’s settle the leadership vs management debate once and for all, and find out how these two important elements of business differ.

What is leadership?

The main role of a leader is to guide and influence colleagues in an organization in a positive manner. Leadership isn’t about specific job titles and management techniques; it focuses more on social influence and maximizing people’s efforts.

Some leaders may naturally evolve within an organization or receive a promotion to become a leader. In other instances, good leaders may need to be recruited externally. Either way, leadership is all about motivating colleagues and helping them be more innovative.

A trait of a good leader is to be able to take the initiative and invest a lot of time and resources to ensure a company’s overall vision is met. Interested in learning about how to become a leader? Check out this article.

What is management?

Managers follow a more structured approach to leading a team of people within an organisation. They’ll often be responsible for planning, delegating work, and delivering projects effectively. Managers are ultimately responsible for the work their team produces and how their performance aligns with business objectives.

Managers should also be able to demonstrate good leadership qualities, which contribute to raising productivity levels and inspiring those around them. Good management is more often about managing workload and ensuring that normal day-to-day activities are getting done properly.

A manager may also only be responsible for one person, rather than a whole team. In this instance, they need to be able to keep the individual happy, allow their career to progress, offer training opportunities, and hold weekly meetings.

What is the difference between leadership and management?

While it’s obviously possible to be a good manager and leader at the same time, being decent at one doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be proficient at the other. In this section, we’ll examine the main differences between leadership and management.

Creating visions vs executing ideas

When it comes to implementing an organisation’s vision, leaders and managers take slightly different approaches. Leaders are more visionary and aim to inspire colleagues in terms of how they act and fulfil company goals. Alternatively, managers will monitor how their team is performing and whether they’re adhering to an organisation’s vision.

Put simply, good leadership focuses on the creation of sharing ideas in an engaging and inspiring way, whereas good management will make sure those ideas are being executed in an efficient manner. Rather than looking at what task to accomplish, a manager will focus on the details of how to accomplish it. This will be done by delegating responsibilities to fellow colleagues.

Aligning vs organising

A key part of leadership is to influence how people contribute to company goals, ensuring everybody is aligned and on the same page. It’s then down to management to break down these goals and organise resources effectively so that they can be achieved. A manager’s approach is a lot more coordinated and technical.

While a manager tends to be more focused on the details, a leader is expected to look at the bigger picture and apply a wider context to the way they think. If they’re able to ensure the whole organisation is aligned in terms of objectives, then managers can focus on their individual teams to ensure they’re pulling in the same direction.

Shaping culture vs day-to-day management

The final difference in the leader vs manager debate is that good leaders tend to focus on the future, whereas competent managers will be more present-focused.

Managers focus on plans, strategies, budgets, and responsibilities to ensure both themselves and their colleagues meet wider company objectives. However, leaders will aim to shape company culture by conjuring up future initiatives and possible opportunities for growth.

While leaders will aim to inspire employees to follow their example, managers will be responsible for holding staff members responsible if they don’t follow the company culture set out by the leadership team. They’ll fulfil this duty by monitoring employee progress and tracking day-to-day work activity.

Leadership vs management: what are the similarities?

Despite there being a clear difference between leadership and management, there are similarities we need to consider as well. These similarities include:

  • In positions of authority. Both leaders and managers are in charge of groups of people, which means both positions carry a lot of weight in an organisation. Like anybody else in a position of authority, they must use their skills and knowledge to lead by example.
  • A huge amount of responsibility. Big roles within a company come with a lot of responsibility. Leaders and managers will need to be able to deal with this pressure effectively, taking responsibility when something doesn’t quite go to plan. If you’re unable to handle pressure situations, then a role as a leader or manager may not be for you.
  • Must work together closely. Despite their differences, leaders and managers must be able to collaborate and work together efficiently. They are both responsible for the smooth running of an organisation and delivering on the company’s main vision. Teamwork makes the dream work!
  • Hard-working. As people in senior positions, you must have a good work ethic and drive to excel as a leader or manager. You’ll be expected to go above and beyond when fulfilling your day-to-day roles, sometimes working long hours and having to deal with a lot of stress.
  • Friendly and positive. In a modern working environment, it’s essential that you’re a good team player and treat everyone the same, regardless of their position in the company. This means being friendly towards others and coming to work each day with a positive attitude. After all, this is essential if you want employees to listen and buy into what you’re proposing.

How to become a better leader or manager

There are some skills that are specific to whether you’re in a leadership or management role, but there are also some that can be applied to both areas.

When it comes to joint management and leadership skills, here are some of the things you’ll need to possess in order to be successful when applying for a role in either field.

Leadership and management skills


  • Communication skills. You’ll need good written and verbal communication skills in order to engage with your team effectively. The ability to convey compelling information will lead to more informed actions and better decision-making.
  • Ability to build relationships. Building strong relationships is key if you want people to follow your lead. Employees need to connect with each other in order for their relationships to improve, which ultimately leads to greater trust. Team building exercises can help to ensure your staff get on well and are able to communicate effectively.
  • Talent development. You should constantly be looking to develop talent within your team. This will not only help them to grow and benefit the business, but it will also ensure you retain your best staff. Make sure you help employees reach their career goals. You could even enrol in a course to improve your people management skills.
  • Change management. It’s your responsibility to keep the organisation moving forward in the right direction, which means you’ll need to come up with new ideas and improved processes. You need to be able to lead by example and implement change effectively.
  • Good problem-solving skills. As a leader or manager, you’ll be required to come up with solutions when problems occur. You should be able to think critically and avoid pointless decision-making.
  • Accountability. The culture of accountability in a workplace starts with a leader or manager, and you’ll be required to be accountable for some of the actions of your team from time to time. It’s also important that everyone knows what they’re responsible for in a team, so they can be more efficient and creative.



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Samuel Kwame Boadu