The Differences Between Management and leadership

Differences between Management and Leadership

‘Management and leadership’, usually these words are generally heard together. Are they interconnected? Are there any differences between them? This is a discussion that has been going on for some time and will be around for some time to come. It is a common topic for discussion in various management training programs and management training courses. The fact is that you cannot escape this topic if you are attending any type of management training program.

A leader is a person who leads whereas a manager is one who manages. This is not funny, but we have to start somewhere and what better than the basic definitions. The biggest difference as perceived by others is the way in which they motivate people. In life nothing is black or white, everything is a different shade of grey. Similarly a manager can be a leader and vice versa. So, we can have a combination of both.

Management training manuals will tell you that managers have subordinates. Managers are given some powers by the company and the subordinates have to do as they are told. The incentive for a subordinate to do what the manager says is the reward that is given. So, if the subordinate does as he/she is told they are going to get their pay. They are not blind robots but the incentive makes them behave like that. In contrast leaders have followers. And following is a voluntary activity. Leaders do not tell people what has to be done, instead they show them the way by taking initiative and doing things first. Leaders show them that if they follow the leader they are going to fulfill their heart’s desire.

What is the chief focus for a manager? Management training programs and management training courses will tell you that the chief focus for a manager should be a manager. They are paid to get things done. After all they are themselves subordinate to some other manager. They often have deadlines looming ahead so they cannot afford focusing on anything else. Leaders on the other hand focus on people. They have a way with people; they give credit to others and take blame themselves. This creates a loyal base of followers around them. This doesn’t mean that they are very friendly with their followers. On the contrary most of them maintain a sort of aloofness to maintain their mystique.

Managers seem to seek comfortable lives. They are planners and so avoid taking risks. They avoid situations which will lead to conflict and prefer to have cordial relationship with others. Leaders on the other hand, seem to seek risk. It is not that they are looking for thrills. The thing is that leaders have a vision and so, are ready to face any problems that they encounter in order to make that vision a reality.

There is a difference in the perspective of both. Whilst managers think incrementally, leaders think radically. You have all heard of the phrase “Managers do things right whereas leaders do the right thing.” So, while managers tend to do think by the book, leaders tend to go more by their intuition. A manager is pragmatic whereas a leader is more emotional. That is why we tend to follow leaders because they reach us at an emotional level. Management usually consists of people who are experienced in their field. They are people who know how the whole system works. A leader on the other hand can be a new employee with new ideas and vision, but without the necessary experience and wisdom to make it work.

So, will the twain never meet? They will and they do. As any management training expert will declare a great manager is one who is also a good leader. But, for a manager to be effective he cannot just be a leader. He needs the formal authority of management to be really effective. Similarly a leader needs to have some managerial skills if he has to realize his vision. We can go on about the differences between management and leadership. Understanding the differences is necessary so as to make the workplace more productive. And this what all management training programs and management training courses say.


Sean McPheat is the Managing Director of MTD Training, a leading UK management training company. Sean is regarded as one of the leading authorities in leadership development has been featured on CNN, ITV, BBC and Arena magazine. Sean also owns some of the most successful professional development sites in the world includin...

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