What Is The Difference Between Leadership and Management?

If you’re running your own business, you’ve heard a few different things in your job description. You’ve probably heard about how important it is to be a great leader and how important it is to be a manager. When you hear these two terms used so often, you may start to think that they’re interchangeable. They’re basically the same thing, right?

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Though both a good manager and good leader should share a few qualities, the two terms are not interchangeable. A good leader has different strengths than a good manager, and not all good managers are necessarily good leaders. But what makes these two things so different? And how can you learn what it takes to be good at both of them?

Let’s take a look at the key differences as well as a few of the similarities between leadership and management.

Where Each One Is Used

One of the biggest differences between leadership and management is that they are used in different settings. 

Leaders can lead anywhere. Good leadership is a characteristic that follows a person wherever they go. They also need to know how to develop leadership skills [How to Develop Leadership Skills: Advice From Our Top Experts] and then use them in everyday life.

When we talk about management, we’re talking about a position that exists specifically in the workspace. Management abilities are only really applicable in the workplace setting. It’s not practical to try and manage your friends or your peers, but you can, however, lead them.

Creating Influence vs. Circles of Power

When you think about a manager, you think about that position in terms of power. A manager has power over subordinates and employees. This power is innate and is included in the job description.

Though leaders can also have power, the key to their power comes through influence. You might have already asked yourself “what is my leadership style and which one will help me grow my influence?” They can use many different leadership styles to gain this power, but the power is more through influence and inspiration.

A leader’s influence can reach further than the immediate hierarchy and structures in place. Effective management is more of a directing role whereas leadership is more of an inspirational position.

Work vs. People

As mentioned earlier, management typically applies only in work settings. A manager’s job is to be a sort of taskmaster; their goals for each day and even each hour are based on specific work goals. They focus on the business itself and implement circles of power to help the people under them get the work done.

On the other hand, leadership is more centered on the people aspect. Leaders want to inspire people to do the work. The intricacies and daily tasks are not the first thing on the mind of the leader, but rather making sure that people involved understand the big picture and feel inspired to work towards it. 

Future vs. Present

A leader is seen as a future-thinker. They focus on what they want the end goal to look like. They are the person who is always looking ahead toward the future and what everything is going to look like at the end of the day, and that’s what they tend to focus more of their time and energy on.

A manager, on the other hand, has to be more focused on the present. They have to put out the fires that are right in front of them. They have to make sure that the work that needs to get done, gets done. They have to focus on each present moment as it arises and respond accordingly, thinking on their feet and problem-solving immediately.

Ideas or Vision vs. Execution

Leaders have to be people with big ideas. A good leader is a creative thinker who comes up with an idea for something that they would like to see in the world. Whether this is a new invention, a service that the world needs, or even a plan for new policies in government work, the idea is the key in the mind of the leader. 

Leaders are usually seen as visionaries. They think outside of the box and are able to see a world where things are different. They’re also often seen as dreamers of sorts, but effective ones that can get other people on board with their dreams.

This is not to say that a leader is always someone who just steps back and lets everyone else take care of things, though this is the definition of what is a laissez faire leadership. A leader can also be active or more hands-off.

A manager, on the other hand, is rarely hands-off. They are the ones who take the idea that the leader proposes, break it down into actionable steps, and then get to it. They execute the idea that the leader creates.

If a manager is a good leader, they have the best of both worlds. They can both inspire, influence, and manage their teams to help make their vision become a reality. They can invent something brilliant and then use interpersonal skills to realize that dream. It’s a powerful set of characteristics to be capable of leading and managing.

Different Skills

These two descriptions of leadership vs. management come with a few different skills. 

Leadership Skills

Great leaders have a more creative set of strong leadership skills instead of concrete ones. They are typically more creative than the average person. They have a sense of responsibility for the vision that they create but are flexible in how they can get there and what the final vision should look like.

They have an innate sense of trustworthiness. A successful leader is the type of person that naturally gain followers. They’re the kind of people that many go to for advice. A true leader should also have a level of positivity that keeps people naturally motivated and makes them someone that people want to be around.

Management Skills

Managers have some more grounded management skills than those that leaders do, though many of them are similar.

What managers have to have that leaders don’t always need is organization skills. They have to be able to plan and execute specific things. They have to be able to problem-solve and think on their feet as they go.

They generally have to think more strategically. Though, if you know what is strategic leadership and the skills needed to apply it,  every person in a management position, no matter the leadership style used, has to be more methodical and intentional with every step they take.

Managers also need to be good at mentoring. They have to seek out employees and help them realize their abilities, allowing for more growth and a smoother-running company.

How Are They Similar?

There are many differences between leadership and management, but there are also quite a few similarities.

Here are a few of the characteristics that these two positions share.

Communication

All managers and leaders have to have great communication skills. Without them, you won’t be able to motivate people to do what they need to get done. Employees and followers will be left confused and lost.

Both leadership and management are nothing without clear, honest communication of expectations and plans. This line of communication needs to always be open both ways, allowing employees or followers access to the leader or manager to clarify things.

Motivation

Not only do leaders and managers need to be good at communicating, but they also need to be excellent at motivating.

To realize an idea, you have to show so much passion and belief in it that it inspires the people following you to feel inspired to work toward the same goal. An effective leader or manager has to have the influence to genuinely motivate people to work hard toward the common goal and get everyone on the same page.

Delegation

Both leaders and managers have to be masters at the art of delegation.

Though it can be easy to have an attitude that you want to do everything yourself, when you’re trying to realize something big, you have to be able to delegate individual tasks to other trusted followers.

This has a lot to do with understanding people, their abilities, and their strengths and weaknesses. You have to be able to read people and give them the work that you can be sure they will excel at. 

Ethics

Lastly, anyone in a position of power or influence over other people has to be ethical. You might already have researched the different leadership styles and know what is ethical leadership  So, using the principles of ethical leadership  is paramount to the success of the vision, safety, and respect of everyone involved.

This means trusting and respecting everyone on the team, their boundaries, and treating everyone in the workplace fairly. 

To Run a Business, You Should Be Good At Both

Both leadership and management have specific management skills and leadership skill sets that are required in order to be successful at both. If you’re a small business owner, you’re going to need to refine and build your skillset at both so that you can fully realize your vision and inspire your team to greatness.

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Is The Difference Between Leadership and Management?
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Is The Difference Between Leadership and Management?
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Maui Mastermind Business Coaching
Business David is a Wall Street Journal and Business Week bestselling author of 11 business and financial books. A syndicated columnist for Inc.com and HuffingtonPost.com, David’s articles have appeared in over 6,500 publications. As the founder and CEO of Maui Mastermind®, David has worked with 100,000+ business coaching clients and community members to buy, build, and sell over $5 billion of businesses.