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    home  /  Insights  /  Leadership vs. management: What’s the difference?

    Leadership vs. management: What’s the difference?

    By Michael Manzo

    People frequently use the terms “leadership” and “management” interchangeably. In many situations, they are sufficiently similar to justify using them as synonyms. Both involve overseeing the performance of others, and both require similar skills. However, there is certainly a difference between the two concepts. Knowing the differences between managers and leaders will assist you in achieving the best balance of leadership and management traits. You can refine your abilities and reach your full potential once you recognize the difference.

    The easiest way to describe the difference is that managers have employees and leaders have followers…

    What is leadership?

    Many well-known leaders have their own conceptions of leadership.

    • John Maxwell: “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”
    • Peter Drucker: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”
    • Warren Bennis: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

    All three definitions above are straightforward and simple to grasp. Leadership is: influence, followers, and the ability to turn a vision into reality.

    Leadership is NOT linked to an organizational structure. A title isn’t required to be a leader and having a title doesn’t make you a leader. You can influence others and provide vision from any post within an organization.

    Furthermore, leadership does not require one to adopt any specific behaviors or styles: e.g., You don’t have to be an extrovert, you don’t have to wear a suit, you don’t have to have your hair slicked back. The style is up to the leader. You can lead from the front, side, center, or back.

    In business, a successful leader knows the business context, provides a clear vision, and motivates his or her team to accomplish it. So how does this differ from “management”

    What is management?

    Management is the process of bringing people together to achieve desired goals and objectives via the efficient and effective use of available resources.

    Management duties often include: planning, organizing, directing, and controlling. Human resources, financial resources, technological resources, natural resources, and so on are all types of resources in management.

    Manager is a job title. It is a role with certain responsibilities. Managers are in charge of the day-to-day operations of the company. They are supposed to be excellent at getting things done on time and on budget.

    Read: How to Be a Good Manager

    A competent manager is one who can maximize available resources (especially human resources) to meet corporate objectives. A good manager is a leader. However, becoming a manager does not automatically make you a leader.

    The difference between leadership and management

    There are several perspectives on the difference between a leader and a manager:

    • The manager administers; the leader innovates.
    • The manager maintains; the leader develops.
    • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
    • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
    • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
    • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
    • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
    • The manager imitates; the leader originates.
    • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
    • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

    We agree with the majority of the above arguments, however, that’s not to say that leaders are superior to managers. Both sets of skills are needed to run a successful organization. A manager cannot make his or her job successful if only focusing on the process and power without caring about the people. Or, a leader cannot lead a team to attain a goal if he or she is unconcerned about how it will be accomplished.

    When listing 9 leadership styles in business, we pointed out some authoritative leadership styles that look and feel a lot more like a manager than like a leader. And that approach is beneficial in certain situations. As a result, it is difficult to say whether leadership or management is more essential. Suffice it to say that an organization should aim to strike a balance between the two that best fits the needs of the organization as a whole.


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