Recognizing the Difference Between Management and Leadership: How Do They Differ?

Recognizing the Difference Between Management and Leadership: How Do They Differ?
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Objective and Approach

A manager’s objectives will be different from the leader’s objectives. Their approach to a problem will be different, and they will judge the results in a different manner as well. You could say that leadership demands change and the manager’s duty is to make that happen—to bring order and stability out of the chaos of change.

One person can be both a leader and a manager and will often use the positions at different times, choosing one role or the other, to achieve his goals.

It Only Follows

Leaders have followers and they generally lead from a place of creative passion. The people who follow often do so willingly, and they adhere to the leader’s direction because they are inspired too. Managers on the other hand, have subordinates, someone acting under their orders. Managers are bestowed authority to complete the objectives and goals of the leader or the company—their “carrot” so-to-speak is generally money or a higher position of authority.


It is an established principle that a leader focuses on his people, whereas a manager focuses on tools and a system to make things happen; in other words, he is facilitating the leader’s vision. The focus for the leader is generally long-term, he cultivates people and ideas. The manager however wants to get something done, achieve his plan and move on to the next project. You could say one works from the heart (leader) while the other (manager) works with his head.



The way these two carry things out will be different. The leader wants to inspire trust and understanding. The manager relies on control. You could say in terms of action, the leader is proactive, setting, selling and shaping goals. The manager is reactive. He takes his mandate and figures out how the work will get done: who can make it happen? and what will make it right? One sells and one tells. Do you know which one does which?

Different Rewards

The end result for a leader will be achievement, taking praise for a vision and making new in-roads. The manager goes over his results, is praised for a job “well done” and receives a raise or bonus. He will also have to accept the blame when something goes awry. We could define this too by saying, the leader was innovative, and the manager was administrative.

Hand in Glove

The true potential of any enterprise or company comes when the leader and the manager work hand-in-glove. Every well-organized company knows there needs to be a balance. You seek the best people available, expect them to stretch beyond the ordinary, and reward them commensurately. You hope that the leaders will rise to the top and an honest assessment of human resource will point the way to people who can manage the leader’s ideals. I hope this article has answered the question of how does leadership differ from management so you know how to take advantage of the differences to help your company achieve its goals.

For a look at how different approaches to leadership can affect the outcome of a project, feel free to browse through Bright Hub’s library of leadership style articles.


“Understanding the difference between a manager and a leader”

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This post is part of the series: Leadership Skills, Styles and Tactics

This article series deals with the difference between management and leadership; the challenges leaders face, basic concepts of strategic leadership and the top ten communication issues and how to avoid them

  1. Explaining the Difference Between Management and Leadership
  2. Basic Concepts of Strategic Leadership
  3. Greatest Leadership Challenges Facing Today’s Project Managers
  4. Top 10 Team Communication Issues and How to Avoid Them
  5. Exercises to Help Facilitate Group Decision Making