10 Differences Between Management and Leadership

Updated on 27 January 2023

Subscription Form (#66)

leadership and management

Management and leadership are two areas that often get confused. While the two roles, or functions, can intertwine, they also involve many unique characteristics. Great managers can be leaders, but not all leaders are managers. You could also display excellent leadership qualities without having any kind of managerial role. To help you understand the two terms a bit better, here are ten key differences between management and leadership.

1.  Creating and Maintaining Systems

One of the key differences between management and leadership comes down to systems in the workplace. Management focuses on maintaining and enforcing systems and processes that are already established. A key role of any manager is to ensure the predetermined systems in place are being properly followed by their teams. Leadership, on the other hand, is heavily focused on creating and implementing new ideas and strategies. Instead of just maintaining what’s already in place, leaders look for ways to establish new systems and improve on any existing processes.

2.  Inspiration vs Control

Managers are responsible for directing and controlling the work of others. Their job is to ensure their teams are working in line with the right processes and strategies. Leaders inspire and motivate individuals to work towards a common goal. Instead of focusing on controlling how work is done, leaders focus more on ensuring work is done for the right reason, and with the right motivation.

3.  Innovation vs Maintenance

Managers are typically more concerned with maintaining the status quo, while leaders are more focused on driving change and innovation. It’s not always usual for managers to come up with new ideas and implement them. They’re more focused on ensuring the pre-established ideas are maintained. Leaders, however, think of new ways to improve systems, teams, workflows, and businesses. Innovation and thinking outside the box are important parts of strong leadership.

4.  Goals and Strategy

Another major difference between managers and leaders is timeframes and goals. Managers are typically more focused on achieving short-term goals and objectives, while leaders are more focused on long-term vision and strategy. Leaders see the bigger picture and focus on direction, while managers focus more on getting tasks done.

5.  Responding to Situations

Managers tend to be more reactive, while leaders tend to be more proactive. This means managers respond to situations and look for ways to fix them. Leaders, on the other hand, look for new ways to change situations and drive the business forward. Leaders create change instead of just responding to it.

6.  Measuring Success

Managers focus more on individual task completion, while leaders focus more on collective team success. This is because leaders look more at the bigger picture. They don’t focus on team sprints as managers do, but on the entire organization achieving its greater goals.

7.  Skills and Experience

Managers are often chosen for their technical expertise, while leaders are often chosen for their ability to inspire and guide others. Great leadership qualities come down to personality traits and people skills – things that are difficult to learn. However, you can learn good managerial skills more easily.

8.  Decision Drivers

Managers tend to make decisions based on data and analysis, while leaders tend to make decisions based on intuition and experience. Leaders don’t follow others, so their decision-making process comes from their own thoughts and feelings. Managers, on the other hand, make decisions to support the leaders above them.

9.  Control vs Empowerment

Managers are often more focused on maintaining control, while leaders are more focused on empowering others. Again, this comes down to the leadership structure in place. Managers tend to work to empower leaders, while leaders work for empowering the organization as a whole.

10.  Function

Management is a role or job function, while leadership is a behaviour or ability that can be displayed by anyone in any role. Anyone can be a leader – no matter what their job title is. Great leadership skills are more about how you can inspire, motivate, and instil confidence in others, and not about what your job title or functions are.

Whether you’re a regular employee, a manager, or a business owner, understanding these differences is important for becoming better at working with people. Learning and displaying great leadership qualities is always beneficial – even if you aren’t in a managerial position. This can have many personal and professional advantages. Both managers and leaders play vital roles in any organization, so it’s important to have a combination of these skills and qualities. The right mix will help any business work more efficiently while driving growth at the same time.


Get Weekly 5-Minutes Business Advice

Subscribe to receive actionable business tips and resources.

Subscription Form (#66)

Feeling Stuck?