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January 12, 2016

Q&A: What is Management VS Leadership?


One of the most common questions surrounding the topic of leadership has to do with the difference between management vs leadership. What do managers do that’s distinct from leaders, and vice versa? What are the unique qualities of each? What’s required of leaders that doesn’t apply to managers?


Leadership and management are complementary processes. One is not necessarily better than the other. Both are necessary within a successful organization, although most businesses and institutions today overemphasize management and underutilize (and under develop) leadership.

Here are nine qualities that distinguish management vs leadership:

Managers are given authority and influence, while leaders earn it: Managers are given positional power over others based on their title and role within the organizational structure. Leaders attract followers by gaining influence through relationships, likability, competence and trust.

Managers set and manage performance standards, while leaders help create and champion a shared vision: It’s the role of a manager to ensure that team performance meets or exceeds current goals and standards. Leaders inspire a team to look into the future and at the bigger picture. They involve others in the development of a shared vision.

Management is about the incremental, while leadership is about the transformational: Managers are typically concerned with achieving continued year over year growth, while leaders are interested in how to create deeper transformational shifts.

Managers deal with complex processes, while leaders deal with the process of change: Especially in large organizations, managers deal with how to navigate and streamline complicated processes in order to minimize errors. Leaders deal with how the organization and its people might need to change and evolve to achieve its vision.

Managers track the tangible, while leaders sense the intangible: Managers are focused on tracking measurable performance indicators. Leaders sense the intangible elements that exist amongst a team, such as commitment, connection and cohesion.

Managers are focused on bringing about profitable outcomes, while leaders are focused on bringing out the best in other people: Managers look at how to increase performance against various bottom-line indicators. Leaders look at how to improve and develop their team members, empowering them towards higher achievement and performance.

Management is exercised by those with a management title, while leadership can be exercised by anyone regardless of title: Although many team members at different levels participate in the management of projects, the official role of Manger (or boss) comes with certain positional authority, direct reports and responsibilities. Leadership, on the other hand, can be exercised by anyone regardless of title. It only requires that a person take a leadership stance, mindset and approach.

Managers apply technical knowledge, while leaders apply emotional intelligence: Managers utilize technical skills that have been gained through training and experience. Leaders leverage the “soft skills” of emotional intelligence, including self-awareness, interpersonal ability, communication, persuasion, perceptiveness, persistence and resilience.

Management is about planning and organizing, while leadership is about motivating and inspiring: Managers typically work within the realms of coordination and control of processes and people. Leaders understand how to intrinsically motivate and inspire people to work together in achieving shared aspirations and goals.

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