Last updated: 22.03.24

What is the Difference Between Management and Leadership?


Across a variety of sectors, leadership and management skills are desirable qualities that organisations look out for in potential candidates. After all, both leadership and management in business are essential to ensure that organisations achieve their goals and drive success. 

However, one problem that professionals in a variety of business sectors may face is understanding the distinction between leadership and management. Whilst there is a relationship between management and leadership, with many positions requiring qualities from both of these roles to be adopted, there are clear-cut differences between a leader and a manager, causing these skills to be quite different.

In this article, we will look at the key differences between management and leadership, helping you to better understand the qualities that underpin these two skill sets, and how they are applied to managerial and leadership roles within an organisation.

What is Management?

Analogies can be a useful tool to improve understanding and recollection, which is why we can apply a football analogy to understand what management actually is. In football, it’s the manager who chooses the team, their formation, and tactics to work towards the goal of winning the match. Every step of the way, the manager is there to fine-tune things.

So at work, managers lead a team of individuals and guide them in their execution of tasks and projects to ensure optimal performance and efficiency within an organisation. 

Managers typically have to have, or grow, their skillsets to include several key skills that will help them in their role. Some of the most important management skills are as follows:

  • Organisation: An ability to maintain several responsibilities at once for yourself, as well as the organisation as a whole, and managing time effectively to do this whilst overseeing other employees. 
  • Interpersonal skills: Can create and maintain relationships within teams and with external parties. 
  • Decision-making: Can make decisions quickly whilst holding business goals in mind to know how these decisions will impact the business, and that this is the best way forward. 
  • Communication and Active Listening: Communicates professionally and clearly in a variety of situations and ways, and actively listens to discussions
  • Forward Planning: Can think about the future and how current decisions will impact company goals later down the line.
  • Strategic Thinking: Similar to forward planning, this is an ability to make the right decisions at a present moment that you know are, strategically, the best bet for employees and the business.

What is Leadership?

Running with the same football analogy, it’s the captain who acts as a leader who inspires the team to perform better. They aren’t there to micromanage or tell everyone else exactly how to play, but to motivate them to be the best individuals that they can be for the benefit of themselves and the wider business. 

So, without leadership, businesses would be stagnant with no change-makers helping to drive them forward towards organisational success.

There are several critical qualities that leaders must possess to fulfil their role in an organisation adequately. We’ve outlined these leadership skills briefly below: 

  • Motivation: Working to motivate the workforce to keep employees engaged and working towards shared organisational goals. 
  • Creativity: Being open-minded when creating organisation-changing ideas that deviate from the norm.
  • Problem-solving: Can come to solutions using outside-of-the-box thinking when faced with challenges.
  • Negotiation: Can come to a middle ground that satisfies all parties when necessary.
  • Empathy: Can put themselves in others’ shoes to understand how to change a workplace positively.
  • Trustworthiness: Are a trustworthy individual, as for employees to look up to leaders, leaders need to prove that they’re trustworthy.

The Differences Between Management and Leadership

Now that you better understand what management and leadership are, as well as the key skills required for both roles, it’s time to understand where their differences lie exactly. 

The roles, responsibilities, and expectations of managers vs leaders remain consistent throughout organisations. Thus, understanding where the differences lie between these two roles will better help you understand your business and workplace and help you execute management and leadership roles successfully within a team. 

Maintenance vs Change

First, it’s important to understand that the psyches of a manager vs a leader are different, meaning both roles have entirely different thought processes that they go through to achieve their goals. Managers are goal-driven, with a mindset that is focused on reaching these goals. In comparison, leaders are known as visionaries and focus on how the organisation can excel and succeed.

Because of this, one key difference between a manager and a leader is that managers are relied upon to maintain the status quo. Managers are hardwired to maintain order and help keep employees in check using set processes. 

In comparison, leaders aren't responsible for maintaining order but they are expected to drive change as part of their vision to push the organisation forward. Managers will follow the vision that leaders create, inputting the processes needed to achieve the organisational goals that this vision aligns with.

Organising and Assigning vs Aligning

Given managers are very goal-driven, they work to organise team members with processes and activities to help streamline operations to reach key organisational goals. They take a methodical and standardised approach to doing this to reach the desired outcome as efficiently and effectively as possible. In short, you could say that the manager is the executor - putting things into action and getting things done. 

A leader, on the other hand, is more concerned with aligning team members to their visions, helping to influence them to see the purpose and benefits of these visions, and realising their role in achieving this. 

It could almost be broken down into the leader being the first component in the process, realising the vision, before the manager takes over and decides exactly what needs to be done to reach the goals the leader has identified.

Risk Management vs Taking Risks

Another core difference between a manager and a leader is that the former ensures that risk is minimised in a business. By minimising risks, managers can ensure that teams remain on track to reach organisational goals by following defined processes and structures put in place to reduce risk.

Alternatively, leaders are individuals who identify risks worth taking and they take them. Given leaders are more focused on change and development for the future, they’re naturally going to be open to more risk than managers are. They have to try out new things and have faith in their own skills and knowledge, which in turn leads to finding new ways for the business to operate, helping it to advance.

Direction vs Inspiration 

Managers will have a team that they’re responsible for, and it’s up to them to provide direction for each member of their team to work following agreed standards and processes. Of course, the direction that the manager offers their team will be working to achieve the goals of the organisation.

Instead, leaders don’t have a defined set of people that they’re responsible for looking after in the day-to-day operations of the business. Their role is more general in that their actions should inspire others to do better in their job and find better ways of working for the benefit of the business.

When broken down, it can be said that leaders inspire team members, whereas managers help to drive this success with direction, organisation, and purpose. 

Short-term vs Long-term Thinking

Having outlined the visions and mindsets that both managers and leaders have, it makes sense that managers are more concerned with short-term issues and goals that ensure the smooth running of the business day-to-day.

In comparison, we’ve already mentioned how leaders tend to be aiming for a goal and have a vision in mind that’s beyond what the organisation is already doing. This means that they’re going to be far more focused on the long term. 

To summarise, managers tend to focus on the present, unlike leaders, who will look to the future and focus on opportunities and achievements that can be attained later down the line.

Endorsing Culture vs Creating Culture

Every organisation has a framework of behaviours, beliefs, and values that underpin its operations and bond its team together, forming a group of individuals aligned with a collective culture and shared value system. 

A manager is someone who supports a team to live by the culture that an organisation has created and echoes its values and beliefs in the work that they do and the way they present themselves.

In comparison, it’s leaders who you will find creating that culture in a workplace, defining what it is and shaping it to be in line with your team and your business. A leader will work to uphold and continuously communicate this culture, internally and externally, to inspire your team to always live by the beliefs and value systems that have been created. 

Both leadership and management skills and abilities will help any individual progress professionally, so understanding the qualities of both and how you can develop them will help you advance in your career. 

Why is Leadership Development Important?

Leadership development is critical to businesses for several reasons, including enhancing engagement and employee productivity, increasing diversity, improving employee satisfaction, and enhancing overall business performance. Without leadership in organisations, businesses would not progress.

Our ‘Introduction to Leadership’ course is aimed at team leaders and professionals who want to enhance their leadership abilities. It helps them to understand in-depth the differences between management and leadership and learn the leadership skills required to support different types of teams. 

What is Management Training Important?

Thanks to management training, employees can learn the key qualities required to successfully guide a team towards achieving organisational success, supporting them as they need with processes and strategies that streamline the achievement of these goals. 

Our ‘Managing a Team’ course sheds light on how to manage team performance using management models and the identification of roles and requirements in a team. This course will help individuals gain skills essential to managing a team through the recognition of team dynamics and the application of motivational theories. 


Can Someone Be Good at Both Management and Leadership?

Someone can be good at both management and leadership. However, given the variation in the skillsets that both roles require, it will take a lot more time and effort to develop both management and leadership skills. It’s also worth mentioning that just because one person may be a good leader, that doesn’t by default make them a good manager, or vice versa.

Is it Harder to be a Leader or a Manager? 

This question entirely depends on whether you already have the skillsets required to be either a manager or a leader or if you are more naturally attuned to the skills of one role more than the other. Therefore, whilst for one person it may be harder to be a leader, this might not be the case for another person.

Why do Few People Succeed at Both Management and Leadership? 

Simply put, it’s because both of these roles need quite different skills for a person to succeed in them. Because of this, it takes more time to develop these skills, making it hard for someone to be successful at both. However, it is not impossible. 


Both management and leadership can be essential elements of business success, each with its own skills and qualities that help businesses achieve organisational goals and create an efficient and diverse workforce. We hope this article has helped you to understand the differences between management and leadership better.

If you’re looking for support in developing management or leadership skills, we offer a number of courses pertaining to leadership and management, ranging in topics from maintaining team culture to managing remote teams, and making the case for change, for anyone keen to develop their leadership and management skills.