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The Difference Between Leadership and Management: Explained

The Difference Between Leadership and Management: Explained

Leadership and management are usually regarded as two overlapping concepts. So much ink has been put to delineate the differences between the two concepts. Virtually all researchers, authors academia, students are always concerned about the differences between the two ideas (Zaleznik, 2004). Some hold that leaders are superior to managers. Some may argue that leadership is intrinsic, that is, one is born with while management is something someone can learn. The concept is disputed by many scholars who believe that it is mythical. The truth of the matter is that anyone needs both leadership skills and management traits to succeed in life. No one can separate the two without resulting in serious consequences. Not all managers are leaders and not all leaders are managers. Since some people lead without having any managerial position. Both leaders and managers share similarities. For example, they all influence others through several means.


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What is leadership? What is management? The definition of leadership varies from scholar to scholar, author to author depending on their belief. For this paper, leadership shall be defined as the ability to gain followers through the use of special personal attributes. Leaders possess crucial attributes such as vision, integrity, trust, selflessness, commitment, creativity, risk-taking, and excellent communication. The definition of management is easier. Management is both an art and a science. Managers organize people and resources towards a common goal (Zaleznik, 2004). Any organization needs to have both leaders and managers to prosper. A firm needs a handful of great leaders and many able managers.

According to Katz, management usually directs people by exercising their executive, administrative or supervisory powers (Zaleznik, 2004). Managers tend to be task-oriented or goal-oriented. The managers achieve their targets by developing their staff, mentoring the personnel, and resolving disputes within the organization. They ensure the organization is running smoothly. Another scholar defines managers as people who take care of arranging, organizing, budgeting, harmonizing, and scrutinizing activities in an organization. All firms hire managers because they acknowledge they can realize the corporation’s aims. Managers stress on formal directing and controlling their subordinates, structures, systems, and capitals. One critic argues that managers are less risk-takers but they adopt a measure to ensure efficiency. The transactional model states that all employees only follow their manager because of the reward they are assured at the end of the month. Managers need to possess three sets of skills to survive the harsh competition. First, they have to own technical skills that will ensure that they are proficient in a particular area. Secondly, they must have the right human skills to run the personnel that serves under them. Thirdly, managers should have conceptual skills. Conceptual skills are the capabilities to work with ideas. It is important to note that managers usually organize, negotiate, and frequently delegate duties in their day-to-day activities (Bennis, 2015).

There are many definitions and fronts of leadership and leaders. It is more than a skill, or style, or influence. Some leaders lead by example. Such actions propel others to follow them voluntarily. This forms the basis of the definition that leaders have followers. In summary, leaders influence their subjects. Leaders have a vision that attracts followers. Leaders bring people together towards a common long-term goal (Bennis, 2015). They follow their vision. Along the journey, they take risks and sometimes challenge the status quo. Leaders are concerned about their people’s welfare. Leaders exercise the transformational model. The model states that leaders encourage, inspire, and motivate their subjects. The leaders believe in their subjects, giving them room to make decisions and make errors. Consequently, this induces a positive change in the subordinates and the organization as a whole. Together with the traits previously mentioned, leaders should be tough, responsible, realistic, honest, visionary, trustworthy, and decisive. Besides, the leaders should be charismatic and have the ability to resolve issues.

There are several differences between leaders and managers. Leaders create a multidirectional influence relationship while managers create a unidirectional authority association. Leaders encourage change through the transformational style and seek to believe in people while the managers stimulate stability and use authority (Bennis, 2015). Essentially, managers rely on the transactional style. Hence, the core differences lie in the approaches used to influence people.

In the management of human resources, managers and leaders have different approaches. Managers organize the staff, maintain the structure, delegate duties, and authority, implement the vision of the organization, limit the employees’ choices and display low emotion. on the other hand, leaders align the firm, they communicate the vision of the corporate, display high emotion, give more room to employees, and influence the members to form teams and partnerships to accept the vision. When it comes to vision execution, managers control all the processes with limited delegation, they identify and solve the problems as well as monitor the results and are low-risk takers. Leaders, on the other hand, take more risks, inspire and motivate the subordinates to overwhelm their stumbling blocks. In terms of vision establishment, management is involved in planning and executing budgets. They are also manifest detached attitudes about the vision and objectives. Leaders demonstrate a passionate attitude towards their vision and objectives, hence, encouraging her personnel towards it (Rosenbach, 2018).

The differences between leaders are many. The list keeps growing with more knowledge. The manager administers while the leader innovates. Managers focus on systems, resources, and structures while the leader centers on people. Some scholars say that managers imitate while leaders are original in their practice. Leaders frequently challenge the status quo to reach greater heights while managers embrace it. Managers do things in the right manner, while leaders do the right things (Zaleznik, 2004).

Leadership goes beyond the routine task to handle the changes that are bound to happen, whereas management exists as a formal responsibility to cope with the routine complexity (O’Leary, 2016). Critics argue that leaders are better than managers but it is hard to separate the two entities from one another as they always work in liaison. Perhaps one of the reasons why the critics present this argument is due to the better approach used by the leaders in running any entity. Only very few people can connect to their employees the way good leaders do it. This goes further to stress the necessity of embracing better social and communication skills in positions of power. Great accomplishments come with strive and determination not forgetting the need to encompass all the fronts of both management and leadership. The conflict can be summarized using the transaction versus transformational models.


Bennis, W. (2015). Managing the dream: Leadership in the 21st century. The Antioch Review, 73(2), 364-370.

O’Leary, J. (2016). Do managers and leaders really do different things? HBR Harvard Business Review.

Rosenbach, W. E. (2018). Contemporary issues in leadership. Routledge.

Zaleznik, A. (2004). Managers and leaders. Harvard Business Review, 1.

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