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What’s the difference between management and leadership?


Management and leadership are both crucial to organisations, but what relation do they have to each other?

Does a good manager have to be partly a leader, or vice versa?

Are both management and leadership skills that can be taught and learned?

Let's find out what we all actually mean by these terms!

Ben Hawes
News Editor

21 Responses

  1. The Map is Just a Map
    Back in the far, far distant past, instead of “managers” and “leaders” we tended to talk about “task managers” and “social managers”. It was “a” way of emphasising the skills a manager needed, but I never did see a convincing argument for splitting the task up this way. In other words, just because we have a label doesn’t automatically mean we’ve got a “can” that matches the label.

    What are the real life advantages of drawing a distinction between task skills and people skills? Can business really afford to pay two people to do one job? And why would we want to recruit someone who ONLY has task management skills OR who ONLY has people management skills but not both?

    Whilst I think it’s perfectly valid to ask the question, it seems to me that carrying on the manager/leader discussion actually misses the point. It encourages the notion that business, and life itself, can be neatly segmented; and that charisma and the talent for “visions” is somehow readily and legitimately divorced from the skills of getting the job done, here and now.

    Most of all, it ignores the frequently (usually?) haphazard way in which managers are selected and promoted, and the abysmal lack of commitment to adequate management training in many companies. Presumably on the basis that mere managers don’t need training because they should be able to pick the job up as they go along; whilst “leaders” are born, not made, and therefore don’t need training either.

    But that’s just my opinion, of course

  2. agreeing with Paul
    I can only sigh and agree with paul’s excellent explanation of his view. It never ceases to surprise me how often this quesion keeps being asked. Depending on your criteria/definitions (of course)I believe a good manager is inherently a good leader – the various well documented behaviours characteristic of a good leader integrate with everything a good manager should be doing. I personally believe the leadership element of manager’s toolkit is very poorly developed in the UK and might account for much of the slack and slide that is seen throughout Industry. There has been plenty of good stuff done on leadership – if it must be prized out of the shell but lets get on and help people learn how to integrate it with other good management practices. Oh, by the way, if you can light the fire of passion in a trainee manager and help them build self belief and respect for others, yes leadership can be developed in others – but it takes time and commitment.

  3. Managemant/Leadership
    There is certainly an overlap between management and leadership, but the terms are not synonymous. Management is essentially about control and systems;”doing the job right” leadership is more about vision and strategy “Doing the right job”. Using this model, a manager need not be a great leader and a leader need not be a good manager. The best leaders and managers are usually those who can combine both roles

  4. does a manager need to be a leader?
    I agree with comments to date that managers need not necessarily be leaders, but I think it is better if they have at least some of the characteristics! Being a leader usually involves some more charismatic traits – which are more difficult to train for, but most of the other management skills can be learnt!

    I agree also totally that most organisations don’t think enough about management skills required when they put people in management roles!
    Senior managers are a particular problem, as by the time they’ve got there people assume they know, and all too often – they don’t, and are the worst offenders whenever I speak to junior staff!
    Bridgette Browne

  5. Leadership and consciousness
    This is a good basis for discussion on leadership and management.

    I agree that the concepts are distinguishable, that they can be effectively combined in the right post and that leadership is an elusive but vital quality.

    I also believe that the best leaders facilitate the best managers and that a compact to this effect between leaders and managers is essential.

    Managing resources, tasks or people, is management.

    Leadership is, I believe, something else affecting such management.

    I don’t think leadership is managing by example either. That’s just setting particular standards, which all good managers should do naturally.

    Good leadership is inspiring, visionary, loyal and responsive and a good leader commands respect whilst effecting change through improvement. Risks are acknowledged and rationalised.

    I think of all the human qualities it demands an element of unique consciousness coupled with a self-believe, moderated by honesty in the face of criticism.

    Some of these qualities can be revealed by achievement and yes, through seminar and “tutorial” activity. I remain to be convinced about conventional training though.

  6. Competitive advantage
    It is already a lively discussion. Don’t we need to challenge some of our ideas on what management and leadership mean in 2003?

    Directing people, procedures and performance through ever changing environments to achieve business goals is now a common management activity. Can you do it without leadership skills? We doubt it!

    Managing systems is no longer enough as without team skills and people the systems have little value.

    Skills in both areas are trainable but need a grounding and exposure to real life experience.

    TBD Global Ltd
    0870 240 4325

  7. Leadership v Management
    Leadership is about….


    Management is about….



  8. Chalk and cheese?
    Good managers are organized rule followers who believe in the status quo.

    Good leaders are charismatic and open-minded.

    More than one company has failed because the management selection process eliminated all the leaders.

  9. Two Sides of the Coin
    I have often been asked this question and had numerous discussions with others on the topic. Nowdays I keep it simple and say that I think management is WHAT the job is about. That is supervising staff,organising work, delegating tasks, getting results etc, but leadership is HOW you do that job and there are different types of leaders and different leadership styles. But that’s another topic for discussion isn’t it?

  10. Just a thought
    A lot of time is spent on discussing the difference between leadership and management but is it relevant? Words such as these make us look too deep. Perhaps what we really need is a new word that means “a person that can fully understand the task/job, now where the skills are, pull all the elements of a job/task together, motivate people, consider the welfare and well being of staff , gets the task/job completed on time.” You may wish to add to that phrase.
    It could be said that so called great leaders of the First World War got the job done but did they care about the welfare of their troops who were massacred? Nurses care about the welfare of people but where are they in the wages list?

  11. A Manager’s Guide to Leading a Team – Where does Leadership fit
    This article is worth reading:

    Manager and Leader? Manager or Leader? Manager not Leader?

    Many organisations are over managed and under led? Why? Often, leadership is the stuff that gets squeezed out by all the ‘management’ requirements. Read more here.

  12. Doing Right
    Possibly the best (i.e. shortest) definition I’ve seen is that Managers “Do things right” but Leaders “Do the right things”.

  13. Leaderment/Managership?
    My experience encourages me that our figureheads in business need to be competent in both areas. Previously “Tall” organisations were able to differentiate quite clearly the roles of Managers and Leaders and appoint the most approrpiate people to these roles. This supports the view that ” Managers do things right and Leaders do the right thing” (Warren Bennis).
    I have noticed with the delayering of organisations and the leaner approach to production, that business now needs to develop people who are competent in both roles so they “do things right by doing the right thing”.
    This opens up a whole spectrum of generic development issues for these people, who can build on specific field expertise, add their individuality to the common goals and nurture those around them towards an evolution of indusrty specific and people orientated competencies.
    What would be interesting is, to re-define these roles, and subsequently establish a benchmark and tag for what IS happening now and in the future.By doing this we may be able to offset some understandable confusion that is based on the more traditional definitions of a manager and a leader. Subsequently we may help people to have a clearer view and understanding of their roles, relative to their jobs and be more able to satisfy both people and material needs.

    Iain Wilson
    T&D Officer
    Bernard Matthews Foods Ltd

  14. Managers and Leaders
    The old definition that managers do things the right way and leaders do the right things, is changing. It was relevant to tall organisations with mainly generalists at the top. In today’s flat organisations full of ‘knowledge workers’, each is responsible for doing the right things, the right way. Each one is a leader and a manager and what is more, a worker as well. Many high-tech companies like those that make telecom switching systems, have 80% managers and 20% ‘workers’. And, the latter too are white collar ones. The Testing Department for switches for instance, has 100% knowledge workers – graduate or PG engineers-cum-MBAs. Who is what, then? Leaders, nevertheless, are needs to give the over-all right directions and a sense of human values and they must be good managers / workers first.

  15. I have found the closer you move to the frontlines in any enterp
    I agree with the view that managing is more of the what needs to be done. Simply, this tends to be the “paper” part of operations such as programs, polocies, and procedures needed for discipline within the enterprise. Leading is the “people” part of operations within practices and processes used in execution.

    I believe relationships are key to building long-term results in focus, learning, and commitments on the frontlines. All enterprises currently manage relationships but few develop user-centered activities to lead relationships. This will be the future and where we may find the Holy Grail of leadership. To compliment, not change, what we are doing now these activities will be simple actions such as involving frontline providers in the ‘asking process’ to demonstrate intentions, experiences, and attention. Providing the opportunity for recognition and appreciation to evoke dialogue and passion.

    For more on asking to lead relationships on the frontlines of daily operations e-mail me with Trainingzone in the subject and I would be happy to reply with a free e-Handbook in .pdf (Acrobet Reader) on a best practice we use – limited time offer.

  16. Manager / Leader – Functions rather than roles
    I believe it is easy for us to get bogged down with this issue – I have read the comments re “doing the right thing and doing things right” which seem more a definition of effectiveness and efficiency rather than management / leadership as they are generic conditions common to all roles.

    The essence of the difference is that leaders “lead”. Behaviourally, teams need direction for action to be focussed and resources used wisely. In times of change human nature seeks a solid and believeable “rock” – whether right or wrong the leader’s credibility to be followed will determine the impact of the changes on the business. So the most appropriate definition possible for a leader is someone who is followed! Whether that is the right direction is down to the success of the strategy.

    Management then is the translation of that vision into a tactical framework – how that translates on a day to day basis to reach that defined destination – if leadership is the “where ” then management is the “how”. That of course means that managers may or may not have to be leaders dependent on the behaviour of their teams to a greater or lesser extent at various times in their performance.

    We see this issue getting confused frequently as a consultancy specialising in sales team issues where direction is crucial to target setting and market attack whilst management translates the performance behind the desire.

    Andy Cliff
    Managing Director
    Solution Cell Limited

  17. Leadership is about getting above average results from average p
    Leadership is about getting above average results from average people – in any team the chances are you’ll have people with capabilities that are according to the ‘normal’ distribution (bell curve). This means that the majority will have average capabilty, with some above and some below average. So, if you can find ways to get above average results from your average people, your team will perform well – and that will demonstrate you are a leader! I have some more ideas on the subject, probably too much for an answer here.

  18. Leadership / management
    Great discussion – some interesting points. In my opinion there are fundamental differences between managing and leading. Managing is about efficiency, in the forms of systems, controls, procedures, policies and structure. Leadership is about effectiveness and people, innovating and initiating. Management is about copying and about maintaining the status quo. Leadership is creative, adaptive and agile. Leadership looks at the horizon, not just the bottom line. An effective manager needs to be a manager and a leader. Leadership and management skills can be taught (by different means) unfortunately there is a lot of catching up to do as we have been teaching management skills for the past 50 years and have only recently attempted to encourage the learning of leadership skills.

  19. Paper and People???
    Good point that it has to be done simultaneously, especially on the frontlines of daily operations. Interestingly, as command-control styles fall out of favor, the closer you get to the frontlines the greater the need to lead and manage simultaneously – big reason for feeling “caught-in-the-middle”

    I like to not worry about where the line is because it takes everyones focus off the results and customers. Keep it simple, if it is ‘paper’, even in relationships (polocies, programs, procedures), look at it as part of the discipline to be managed with direction from senior management. If it is ‘people’, try to build activities to lead relationships for continuity, not changing, what you are already doing.

    For example, we get our operations managers leading their groups in the ‘asking process’ (95% non-verbal) to supplement the existing feedback programs they are executing. Leading asking (basic to human nature) as feedback supports focus and learning it is asking which develops and provides continuity for the long-term.

  20. Transactional vs Transformational
    Great debate !

    As a small offering, the word ‘Manage’ is derived from an old French/Saxon verb ‘Man’ij’, which meant the senior person whose job it was to control or train horses, but this job would also have included the supervision and training of more junior people who helped the Man’ij to undertake their duties.

    At some early point during the Industrial Revolution the plural ‘Man’ijur’ became a popular phrase within an Industrial context, which is not surprising given that it would have been a word that lots of people from the Agrarian economy would have known. However the emphasis of its meaning had slightly changed in order to describe someone who was responsible for ‘controlling people, processes and paper’ (or any combination of the three) in a transactional sense, as opposed to controlling horses. 200 odd years on, and within a contemporary context, the word ‘Manager’ still means ‘Control’ (of people, processes and paper).

    The word ‘Leader’ comes from a word that meant ‘to show the way by going first’, or ‘to act as a guide’. It was adopted by sailors in antiquity to describe the boat that had the most experienced navigator on board, someone familiar with local currents, and where other ships could follow the ‘Leader-ship’. Although they in turn had adopted the word from land based ‘guides’ (leaders) who showed people the ancient routes and trails in order to conduct trade. During the 18th and 19th centuries, land based armies adopted the word to indicate how people were expected to behave (e.g. lead from the front). Given the several hundreds of years that have passed since it was first used, ‘Leadership’ still means ‘showing the way through personal example’.

    Managers therefore undertake a series of Transactional activities ensuring people, process and paper are all controlled within a set of clearly defined rules to achieve an organisational goal. Whereas Leaders undertake a series of Transformational activities, more connected with Inspiring* people to achieve their own (or more usually the leaders) vision or goal, but relying upon their own Charisama** to galvanise people into achieving the goal.

    (*’Inspiring’ deriving from the Latin ‘Inspir’ (literally ‘with spirit’), which is the behavioural manifestation through the action you take as a result of receiving ‘divine knowledge’).

    Wayne Thomas,

    I have come to realise that once we moved away from MANAGERIALISM to, and, from the LEADERSHIP models of EXECUTIVE deployment and development, a new paradigm could now emerge, which I am exploring in the new concept of “LEADAGEMENT: The SUPER-MODEL of Higher Executive Development Beyond Management and Leadership”.
    Myself and a few colleagues are working on this super-model through the newly established GLOBAL LEADAGEMENT INSTITUTE, in London, UK. We believe that MANAGERIALISM is not enough, and that LEADERSHIP is not enough either. Current concerns about optimising executives’ PERFORMANCE worldwide have given us the impetus for the LEADAGEMENT project. The way forward, we have come to conclude, is in the SYNTHESIS of both of the current executive models inherited from past generations.
    The basic principles of MANAGEMENT and those of LEADERSHIP practices are easily reducible to CONCEPTS that can become synthesised in the wholistic system of LEADAGEMENT, which hopefully in due course give us LEADAGERS: the dynamic HYBRID Super-EXECUTIVES, the Leader-Managers or the Manager-Leaders of tomorrow.
    We are already working to see how LEADAGEMENT practice helps to produce higher Executive PERFORMANCE among organisations administrative cadres.

    From our observation of the current ORGANISATIONAL structures around the world, one has found that there is a traditional DUALISATION of the headship of corporations and institution into the conventional positions of the PRESIDENT / CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER (the CEO), on one hand , and that of the CHAIRMAN on the other. Now, we would like to suggest here, in line with the principles and practices of LEADAGEMENT, that the COMBINATION of the Corporate Roles of the CHAIRMAN and the PRESIDENT / CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER (the CEO), or the MANAGING DIRECTOR (MD), could be given to the newly conceived position of the LEADAGER.

    We are convinced that both the MANAGER and his/her MANAGERIAL role as well as the CHAIRMAN and his/her LEADERSHIP role will be synthesised into the LEADAGEMENT role for tomorrow’s organisations

    LEADAGEMENT involves an EXECUTIVE who is LEADAGING an organisation as a LEADAGER, not just as a MANAGER or simply a LEADER, to LEADAGE for the highest level of personal performance and organisational productivity.

    BISIKAY, Director,The Global LEADAGEMENT Institute, London ([email protected])


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