Leadership vs. Management

Explore the main differences between Leadership and Management, including styles, models and philosophies. Develop an understanding of their key characteristics.

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Leadership vs. Management [edit]

It is appropriate here briefly to explain, and give examples of, the differences between management and leadership.

There are lots of confusions and overlaps, and also big differences, when comparing leadership with management.

A very big difference between leadership and management, and often overlooked, is that leadership always involves (leading) a group of people, whereas management need only be concerned with responsibility for things (for example IT, money, advertising, equipment, promises, etc). Of course, many management roles have major people-management responsibilities, but the fact that management does not necessarily include responsibility for people, whereas leadership definitely always includes responsibility for people, is a big difference.

The biggest most fundamental overlap between leadership and management - there are many individual points - is that good leadership always includes responsibility for managing. Lots of the managing duties may be delegated through others, but the leader is responsible for ensuring there is appropriate and effective management for the situation or group concerned.

The opposite is not the case.

It would be incorrect to suggest that management includes a responsibility to lead, in the true sense of both terms.

We, therefore, may see management as a function or responsibility within leadership, but not vice-versa.

(Incidentally - Where a manager begins to expand his or her management responsibility into leadership areas, then the manager becomes a leader too. The manager is leading as well as managing)

Beyond this fundamental overlap - that leadership is actually a much bigger and deeper role than management - a useful way to understand the differences between leadership and management is to consider some typical responsibilities of leading and managing, and to determine whether each is more a function of leading, or of managing.

Of course by inflating the meaning of the word 'managing', or reducing the significance of the meaning of the word 'leading', it is possible to argue that many of these activities listed below could fit into either category, but according to general technical appreciation, it is reasonable to categorize the following responsibilities as being either:

  • managing, or
  • leading.

To emphasise the differences, the two lists of responsibilities are arranged in pairs, showing the typical management 'level' or depth of responsibility, compared to the corresponding leadership responsibility for the same area of work.

The responsibilities are in no particular order, and the numbering is simply to aid the matching of one item to another as you consider the management perspective versus the leadership perspective.

Management vs leadership - differences in responsibilities

Typical Responsibilities 
(not absolutely exclusive to either management or leadership)



1. Implementing tactical actions
2. Detailed budgeting
3. Measuring and reporting performance
4. Applying rules and policies
5. Implementing disciplinary rules
6. Organizing people and tasks within structures
7. Recruiting people for jobs
8. Checking and managing ethics and morals
9. Developing people
10. Problem-solving
11. Planning
12. Improving productivity and efficiency
13. Motivating and encouraging others
14. Delegating and training
1. Creating new visions and aims
2. Establishing organizational financial targets
3. Deciding what needs measuring and reporting
4. Making new rules and policies
5. Making disciplinary rules
6. Deciding structures, hierarchies and workgroups
7. Creating new job roles
8. Establishing ethical and moral positions
9. Developing the organization
10. Problem-anticipation
11. Visualising
12. Conceiving new opportunities
13. Inspiring and empowering others
14. Planning and organizing succession, and...
15. All management responsibilities, including all listed left, (which mostly and typically are delegated to others) ideally aid motivation and people-development

Observant readers will notice that the final entry in the leadership list is 'All management... (delegated to others...)'.

This emphasizes that:

  • Leadership is (usually*) a bigger responsibility than management, and also,
  • Leadership includes the responsibility for the management of the group/situation, which is typically mostly by delegation to others.

*N.B. Management may, of course, be a bigger responsibility than leadership where the scale of a management role is much bigger than the scale of a leadership role, for example, the quality assurance manager for a global corporation compared to the leader of a small independent advertising agency.)

Also, it is important to note again that many managers are also leaders, and so will be doing, or perhaps will be asked to do, things which appear in the leadership list.

Where a manager does things which appear in the leadership list, then actually he or she is leading, as well as managing.

There are lots of great leadership training courses that can help you to explore the concept of leadership future. 

James Scouller has an additional and helpful viewpoint on the distinction between leadership and management: He says:

"Leadership is more about change, inspiration, setting the purpose and direction, and building the enthusiasm, unity and 'staying-power' for the journey ahead. Management is less about change, and more about stability and making the best use of resources to get things done... But here is the key point: leadership and management are not separate. And they are not necessarily done by different people. It's not a case of, 'You are either a manager or a leader'. Leadership and management overlap..." (From The Three Levels of Leadership, J Scouller, 2011)