Leadership vs Management: What’s the difference and why does it matter?

What’s the difference between leadership and management? When it comes to most people, the words are often used interchangeably, but at their core, leadership and management are very different things. This difference can be crucial to your company’s success or failure depending on how you apply it. Here’s an explanation of what these two roles mean, how they differ, and why the distinction matters so much in business.

What Do Managers Do?

A manager is a member of an organization with the responsibility of carrying out the four important functions of management: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. But are all managers leaders? In order to answer that question, we must first define leadership as it pertains to business.

Leadership can be defined as the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. It is a more action-oriented approach that involves guiding people through group decision-making processes toward achieving a shared goal or purpose. In contrast, management focuses on coordination and control rather than direction; employees manage themselves instead of being managed by others.

Most managers also tend to be leaders, but only IF they also adequately carry out the leadership responsibilities of management, which include communication, motivation, providing inspiration and guidance, and encouraging employees to rise to a higher level of productivity. I’ve often heard that you can manage things, but you must lead people.

Effective leadership involves being able to manage others effectively while motivating them with meaningful goals that are also aligned with company goals—i.e., getting your team to buy in on what needs to get done. Managers are involved in day-to-day activities while leaders focus on long-term objectives by inspiring their teams towards common goals or values.

What is Leadership?

Leadership is about getting people to accomplish goals they may not have originally set out to achieve. It’s not something you can just tell people to do—it involves motivating them to want to follow. If you really want to be a leader, go out of your way not only for yourself but also for others. Encourage communication among team members by creating opportunities for dialogue. Don’t be afraid if someone disagrees with you; instead, embrace these situations as an opportunity for growth within your team.

Above all else, take pride in your work! Even if things don’t turn out exactly how you hoped, enjoy what you do—you will inspire others to follow in kind. Focus on long-term strategic planning rather than quick fixes that offer little value down the road. Be accountable to everyone around you, no matter their role or level in authority. Whether it’s answering questions or meeting deadlines, leadership comes down to one thing: delivering results. By developing accountability across your team through daily progress reports and feedback sessions, you are effectively communicating what needs to get done and by whom.

This way, no member of your team gets left behind while still giving you a clear picture of where everyone stands at any given time. Avoid micromanaging by conveying responsibility to each member of your team from day one—after all, good leaders know how far to back off without being completely removed from every detail.

In other words, trust in their ability to complete tasks independently while staying aware enough to provide guidance whenever necessary.


  • Calm under pressure
  • Effective decision-maker
  • Attentive to details
  • Interacts well with peers
  • Excellent time management skills
  • Strong motivational skills
  • Charismatic
  • Appealing personality
  • Has a sense of urgency
  • The ability to execute a Vision


  1. Calm under pressure

People with great management skills also tend to be people who can remain calm under pressure. Decisions that need to be made in a hurry, last-minute changes in plans, or other interruptions are no problem for these folks. They know how to roll with it—no surprise, given their history of handling so many other issues successfully.

  1. Effective decision-maker

A common misconception about leaders is that they are born—not made. But many leaders didn’t come by their positions naturally; they developed certain skills to become effective decision-makers. First, effective leaders gather as much information as possible to inform their decisions. Next, they clearly define goals or objectives for each decision at hand. And finally, they consider their options before making a final choice based on all of these factors.

  1. The ability to execute a Vision

Visionaries are great at creating all kinds of fantastic ideas for companies or countries, but if they can’t figure out how to get people to work together toward a common goal, their visions will never be realized. The best manager understands that leadership isn’t just about having good ideas; it’s about knowing how to get people on board with them.

That means being able to influence others, communicate effectively—and maybe even rally some supporters along the way! It’s your job a manager to help employees see what it is you want them to do and then motivate them in such a way that they want to do it.

  1. The ability to Direct

Whether you realize it or not, every time you make a decision as a manager—whether it be to hire or fire an employee, prioritize one project over another, or move an item from your to-do list to your done list—you’re exercising your leadership muscle. Leadership is about setting a direction for yourself and those around you. It’s about driving change in order to achieve results. It’s also about creating alignment so that everyone knows what success looks like.

Leaders are constantly working to direct their teams toward achieving key objectives; managers are often tasked with helping others execute on processes that have already been defined by leaders. Understanding that there’s a difference between leadership and management will help you focus on where your true value lies as both a professional and an individual. The ability to Influence: Another important distinction between leadership versus management concerns influence versus control.

  1. Excellent time management skills

If you want to be a leader, you must demonstrate excellent time management skills. Being organized is key. You need to know what needs to get done when it needs to get done, who is working on each project, what resources are needed for each project—and how those resources will come together as a team. When your employees see that you have everything handled at all times, they can focus on their own responsibilities rather than worrying about whether or not their boss knows what he or she is doing. If your employees have confidence in your ability to lead them with no questions asked—and fulfilled—they’ll follow you wherever you go.

  1. People Focused

When we think of leadership, our minds often drift to charismatic figures who inspire change in others—people like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, or Oprah Winfrey. But a lot of leaders don’t fit that mold. The best leaders know that being a leader doesn’t have to mean being larger than life or having an ego. It means understanding how to navigate human resources to get great results. So let’s start there. If you want to be a leader instead of just a manager, start by focusing on people first. Leaders do things differently than managers do. Even if your company doesn’t call you leader or manager, your day-to-day responsibilities include tasks typically associated with one over another. Focus on doing what’s right for your employees, customers, and business partners. Serve them well and everything else will fall into place.

  1. Strong motivational skills

You can have all of these traits, but you still won’t be a leader without strong motivational skills. To lead others, you need to be able to motivate them by inspiring them with a vision that excites them. In order to do that, your team needs to trust that you’re looking out for their best interests—their job security, pay raises, promotions—and care about how they feel.

When people trust that their boss has their back, they’ll do anything to help him or her succeed. The best leaders are known for having high EQ (emotional intelligence) and maintaining positive work environments. They aren’t always friendly or approachable, but people who work with them on a daily basis say that they genuinely love what they do and work hard because they believe in themselves and believe in their teams/employees/organizations.

  1. Charismatic

When we think of a leader, we often conjure up an image of someone charismatic. Think Nelson Mandela or John F. Kennedy. Leaders are supposed to inspire followers—but charisma is more than just oratory ability or even good looks; although some leaders might be more charismatic than others, there are certain tactics you can employ to increase your charisma as a leader. Charisma isn’t just about attracting attention, but also about influencing people to follow you.

Do you want people to listen to what you have to say or buy what you’re selling? If so, make sure they know who YOU are before they agree with YOU. Remember that humility goes a long way in leadership—because if people don’t trust their leader, they won’t stay with them for long. In short: be yourself.

  1. Appealing personality

An appealing personality is just as important in management positions. People who love what they do are always more successful than people who hate what they do. Managers with appealing personalities can get their employees to perform better for them because they see that person as someone worth working hard for.

They see her as someone easy to respect, not simply because she has authority over them, but also because of how she conducts herself. It isn’t difficult to fall into a bad habit when you spend too much time at work.

  1. Has a sense of urgency

It’s important to distinguish between Leadership and Management, not just for your own sake but also for that of your team. If there is no clear line of distinction, you can all too easily fall into taking on roles within your company that aren’t suitable for your respective strengths. A group leader with management skills is very different from a manager with leadership skills.

Why Leadership Matters

Few things are more important to a company’s success than leadership. When I think of leadership, I picture a CEO or other executive rallying employees behind a common vision, rallying investors around an ambitious plan for future growth, or persuading customers to try their product. The bottom line is that companies are only as good as their leaders. Their mission statements are aspirational statements unless they’re being executed by strong leadership at every level of the organization.

Leadership matters because strong leaders set clear objectives that empower teams to perform at their best while maintaining accountability for both results and company culture. If you have an emerging leader in your midst—or if you aspire to lead your own business one day—here’s how to tell if he or she has what it takes to succeed in today’s competitive environment.

Strong motivational skills

Understanding how to motivate your team is key for leaders; in order to motivate them, you need to understand their intrinsic motivations. Motivational experts like Bob Nelson propose that we all have three intrinsic motivators: Achievement, recognition, and security. With these core motivators in mind, you can motivate individuals on your team (and yourself) better than before by applying strategies that will appeal directly to their personal core motivators. For example, if an employee’s main motivational drivers are recognition and achievement, you might take them out for a fancy lunch every once in a while so they feel recognized for a job well done or highlight achievements publicly so they know they’re seen as a valuable member of your team.

How to Become a Leader?

A lot of people think being a leader is all about being popular, or knowing how to give orders, or having people listen to you. That’s not really what leadership is. It’s not about getting people to do things for you; it’s about getting stuff done through other people. And here’s one thing they won’t tell you in business school – most leaders are introverts.

They’re smart enough to know that giving orders won’t work if their team doesn’t respect them enough to listen, so they go out of their way to earn respect rather than demand it. They’re willing to compromise because their goal isn’t power; it’s effectiveness. The best way to become a leader is by doing your job well.

Do it even better than anyone else would expect you to. Lead by example, no matter who you are or where you stand in your organization. You can learn everything there is to know about management by studying history. But leadership is timeless. There’s nothing you need to read up on… just figure out what works and do more of it.

By leading others, you will begin to lead yourself; knowledge gained from leading others will make you capable of leading yourself effectively as well. This includes an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, along with an acceptance (even embrace) of said weaknesses while also seeking ways around them (whether alone or with others).


If you want to be an amazing leader, you need to understand that there is a big difference between management and leadership. It all boils down to one thing: people. Truly great leaders are not just managers who are also good at leading—truly great leaders are people who are able to lead other people. By understanding what makes a person a leader, versus what makes them a manager, you can start setting yourself up for success in whatever type of position you work in.


Leadership vs Management: What’s the difference and why does it matter?

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