April 20, 2024

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How Leadership and Management Differ

We always have considered leadership and management to be similar things – most people can’t even tell the difference. To them, a leader is a manager, and a manager is a leader hence leadership is management.

Practically, we are not far from the truth. Leadership and management are two concepts with quite a range of overlapping areas but they are still uniquely different. No matter how much we try to ignore it, the difference is very important.

Leadership Versus Management

Leadership Defined

Many definitions of leadership have been suggested over time. Leadership can be seen as a skill that when possessed, provides an individual with the ability to guide others. ‘Lead’ is an action that is an example for other individuals to follow.

A leader can in simple terms be defined as an individual whom others follow or an individual who is a good example to other individuals. Leadership thus goes hand in hand with social influence – individuals who are leaders normally have high social influence. The unclear understanding of leadership has led to many arguments on whether leaders are born or made.


The definition of management goes hand in hand with that of administration.

Management can be defined as the coordination and organization of tasks in an organization for the purpose of achieving the organization’s goals.

Management is thus a factor of production in business.

Is Management Different From Leadership?

Managers are people to which a task is bestowed – the task of management. The task of coordination and organization of tasks in an organization or company. The task of planning, hiring and firing in the organization.

Leaders on the other hand help set the way and direction for others to follow. Leaders don’t necessarily have to be of higher job level to lead while managers have to be on a higher job level to manage.

A leader’s most important quality is wisdom while a manger’s most important quality is rationality and logic.

We are now going to look at roles management and leaders play at different levels of business hence bringing out the difference.

Establishing a Vision


  • In the quest to realize the vision of an organization, a manager will plan and budget in such a way that the organization invests in projects and tasks that work towards realizing the vision.
  • A manager does not develop an emotional attachment towards any particular project or against it. Once the vision of the organization has been set, the manager works towards it.
  • A manager will develop the schedules and plans towards realizing the vision. For example – if a transportation company decides to buy 100 new trucks by the end of the year, the manager will set the timelines of buying those trucks putting the financially inflows and outflows of the organization into consideration such that by the end of the year, all 100 trucks are bought.


  • A leader will decide the direction the business takes and set the vision and mission of the business. A leader of a transportation company will, for instance, decide that by the end of the year, the company needs to expand and buy 100 new trucks.
  • A leader develops an emotional attachment to the vision of the company – or at least should appear too. A leader is supposed to be an example thus loving the direction the business is taking and acts as a motivation to the rest of the organization’s stakeholders.
  • The leader will develop the strategy required to achieve the plan. For example, if the transportation company intends to buy 100 trucks by the end of the year, the leader might ask the shareholders to contribute towards it or use some of the previous year’s profits or take a business loan to fund the expansion.

Personnel & Networking


  •  A manager staffs the organization. They hire and fire. This includes doing the research on the kind of staff required and the optimum number of staff while identifying the non-productive staff and dismissing if need be.
  • Maintains the organization structure. A well-maintained organization structure ensures the business retains its quality and does not veer from its goals and direction.
  • A delegation of responsibilities to juniors. A manager assigns tasks to his/her juniors, creates deadlines and follows up making the person to who a task has been delegated is responsible for that task.
  • Other than delegating responsibility, a manager also delegates authority to their juniors. A delegation of authority involves shifting the task of decision making from one organization level to the other. For instance, if the manager is supposed to chair a meeting on a specific date and he happens to have to attend to a more important task on the same date, he/she can delegate the authority to any of his juniors.
  • A manager implements the organization’s vision. Managers have bestowed the task of transforming the organization’s vision to reality thus given that authority. A manager is thus allowed to come up with the procedure of ensuring the organization’s vision comes to fruition, and the company has to give them the resources of doing it.
  • A manager runs on logic rather than emotion. A manager is the brain of the organization and sometimes may have to make radical or mean decisions to make sure the company remains standing and achieves its goals. A manager, for instance, might have to lay off workers if that’s the most prudent decision to ensure the business remains standing.
  • A manager many times is not the most liked person in an organization. A manager’s responsibilities limit the choices of workers due to their do what needs to be done policy.


  • A leader, on the other hand, aligns the organization. This involves setting the goals and deciding what direction the business should take.
  • A leader will present to the rest of the organization’s stakeholders the vision and the mission of the organization.
  • A leader is the networking tool of the organization or company. He/she spearheads the coalition and partnering of the organization with other organizations.
  • Unlike a manager, a leader runs on emotions. A leader has to influence people and convince them he/she is worth following hence hurting anyone’s feelings won’t work in their favor, and they have to check that. A leader thus is seen as someone who increases the choices of other stakeholders in the organization.

Vision Execution


  • The manager regulates and controls the processes towards the execution of the vision. The manager, for instance, might have to introduce overtime in order to increase production so as to realize the organization’s goal of expansion.
  • The manager identifies the problems in the organization and obstacles towards the vision and comes up with the solution of solving the problem.
  • The manager’s approach to problem-solving is always low risk considering he/she has a limited say in the establishment of the vision. The manager is more like the executioner of the leader and always works within a limited space.


  • During the whole process of vision execution, the leader’s main role is to motivate the stakeholders towards it and help inspire them. This involves simple gestures like:
    • Showing confidence in the workers and stakeholders
    • Seeking input in decisions.
    • Giving you opportunities to shine.
    • Rewarding high-performing workers.
    • Respecting everyone in the organization.
    • Giving credit to anyone that deserves it.
    • Encouraging low Performers.
  • The leaders approach to solving problems is high risk. A leader might decide to take a high-interest bank loan in order to fund the organization’s vision for instance.

Vision Outcome


  • The manager’s role in vision outcome is results. The organization’s leadership expects the manager to provide consistent results that are consistent with the organization’s vision on a regular basis. The manager is thus bestowed with the task of ensuring an ‘all is well’ environment and will have to prepare themselves during the organization’s meetings to convince the leadership that all is going according to plan.
  • If and when the leadership is unsatisfied with the results, the manager is forced to take control measures and bring the organization back in line. If the task proves to be a mountain to the manager, the leadership might come in and make riskier decisions like dismissing the manager or pumping more funding into the business which may involve taking a loan.


  • Leaders react to vision outcome generally by either establishing a new vision and rewarding the stakeholders where the vision is realized or is moving towards being realized and making risky decisions where the vision isn’t getting realized. A leader might decide to give the shareholders and the stakeholders an end of the year treat or increased dividends. He/she might set another vision for the next year.
  • Accountability shouldn’t be limited to your workers.
  • A leader is someone who motivates and inspires. A leader can lead by simply being there and not actually interacting with their followers on a one on one basis.

About Author

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I am an ITIL Expert and extremely passionate about customer service, customer experience, best practices and process improvement. I have led support, service, help desk and IT teams as well as quality and call center teams in Canada and the UK. I know how to motivate my teams to ensure that they are putting the customer first.

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