Leadership Versus Management; How They are Different and Why

March 10, 2020

Leadership Versus Management

As an employer, you stand a greater chance of succeeding when you’re fully conscious of your strengths and weaknesses.  This also implies knowing how well you’re fairing in your leadership and management roles. But for starters, most employers can’t even tell the difference between leadership and management.

Simply put, leaders work with followers and managers with workers. Management focuses on tasks and mechanical processes, deploying techniques and routines that guarantee targeted levels of performance. On the other hand, leadership tunes into more humanistic elements, including emotions, physical and mental stress, relationships, etc, harnessing tools like fun outdoor team-building activities, group meetings, etc. 

As a business leader, you need to excel both as a leader and a manager. Leadership and management feed into each other. You need to be able to win the support of stakeholders for your strategic vision, and also guide your employees towards the fulfilment of your plans and vision.

In the following sections, we look at the difference between leadership and management to give you benchmarks for rating your performance in both concepts.


One of the most telling differences between leadership and management is their typical objectives. A manager focuses more on seeing to the success of the business systems which process certain inputs to generate certain outputs. From a manager’s perspective, employees are basically cogs in a machine expected to perform a fixed set of tasks to contribute to the success of the organisation’s machinery. The manager’s priority is therefore the details of the organisation’s operations. 

On the contrary, the leader’s priority is the lives running the business. Rather than focus on maintaining the underlining mechanisms of the business, they’re more concerned about the people working the mechanisms. In leadership mode, you address poor performances primarily by looking at how you can tweak the organisation’s machinery to empower the employees to perform better. Whereas in management mode, you’ll be more inclined to replace an employee who isn’t working a system successfully.

For a leader, it’s really up to the employees to determine the best setup for a successful pursuit of organisational goals, while a manager predetermines the design elements of a working environment which employees are expected to thrive in.  


Given their task-oriented perspective, managers are more apt to project an image of commander and controller. But a leader is more goal-oriented, and they, therefore, see themselves more as coaches, guides, and teachers. Managers feel the need to assert their control over the employees because they fear the negative repercussions of contravention. Leaders, on the other hand, are keener on instilling intrinsic motivation and initiative, and are, therefore, not averse to independent thinking.

Managers look to themselves to ensure the smooth operations of the business processes, while leaders believe and trust in the employees’ ability to move the business forward. In management mode, you say to employees “Just do your job and we’ll be fine,” while in leadership mode, you can tell an employee “You know your job much better than I do, and I’m counting on your discretion.” Leaders are not afraid to show their vulnerabilities because they’re not concerned about eliciting unflinching obeisance, unlike managers. 


While managers zoom in on the granular details of the organisation, leaders are more interested in the bigger picture. Managers are often given to nit-picking and fault finding, while leaders are keener on assessing both the strengths and weaknesses of employees. For managers, the employees are more or less a bundle of skills, but leaders focus on harnessing the full potentials of employees. 

Managers care more about how each employee performs individually. Leaders know that in a team, the concerted efforts of individuals with varying skill sets can yield better results than a sum of separate individual efforts.

Leaders praise and give credit to employees more often than managers, who view their relationship with employees as a transactional one with a fixed set of rewards or punishments corresponding to certain levels of performances. 


Managers are far more averse to risks than leaders. Given their narrow-minded approach, managers desire more predictability. But with a focus on the bigger picture, leaders can take risks to lose out in the short term to reap benefits in the long run. Leaders can afford to lay down their guards and build bridges to foster long-term engagement and commitment to success. Managers, on the other hand, only engage with employees based on fixed terms of service delivery for predetermined rewards. 

Managers are predisposed to take risks only with the systems, not with the people running the systems. Leadership takes the risk of trusting in people’s ability to do what’s best for the organisation. 

A manager’s faith is in the underlining mechanisms of the organisation, while leaders put their faith in the employees. 


Under management, it’s assumed that the manager knows it all, but with leadership, the leaders trust that they and their employees complement each other and make up for each other’s shortcomings. Leaders encourage employees to share ideas and contribute inputs to plans and work schedules. But in management, information and directives mostly flow from top down the hierarchy. 

As such, in a leadership environment, there’s a stronger sense of belonging among employees compared to a management setting. Leadership fosters collaboration, communication, and team spirit, using tools such as fun outdoor team-building activities. Leaders prioritise both professional and personal growth, and create an environment that nurtures and sustains spontaneous learning among employees.  

With management, on the other hand, there are only periodic training sessions and team meetings where instructions are passed down from the managers to the employees.

Final Words

Management is contingent on predictability, budgeting, planning, and directing, while leadership is all about inspiring, empowering, and educating. As a business owner, you’re responsible both for the fine details of the organisation’s goal-oriented action plans, as well as the systems and individuals that execute the plans. You need to utilise the toolbox of a manager, which includes tools like budgets, project plans, work schedules, etc, together with those of a leader, which includes tools like fun outdoor team-building activities, pep talks, and coaching. 


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