Leadership vs. Management – What’s the difference?

We strongly believe that leadership & management go hand in hand. A good manager needs leadership skills to perform and a good leader is nothing without a strong grasp of management techniques.

However, the two are different concepts that are often muddled together as one. In this post I am going to look at what makes leadership & management different, and how they should be combined for the best of both worlds.


The Role

Management is a formal role within a business. The manager is responsible for the employees who work for them and must set and monitor goals that meet the aim of the business.

There is no formal role for a leader. The best managers are natural leaders but often an employee in the team emerges as a leader. In this situation it is important that the manager works with them to help spread the management message. When a leader within a team turns against the manager, dissent can soon spread.

Natural leaders are often internally promoted when they display their leadership qualities. Businesses feel that it is easier to promote an employee who already has the support of their team than bring in a new manager.


A manager is directly responsible to upper management and the business as a whole.

Leaders – unless they are also managing – are not responsible to anyone in a formal capacity but usually take responsibility for their own goals & for their followers/ team.

A good manager is able to keep both upper management & their team happy by providing solutions that benefit both parties.


Managers are able to rely on control over their team due to their formal position and backing from upper management. Employees know that challenging a manager means challenging the business.

Leaders have no formal control and so must earn trust to be able to lead. They have no formal authority to force other staff to act. Instead they must use their influence.

Good managers shouldn’t need to rely on control – their employees should trust their decisions.

This comes into practice when dealing with awkward employees or resolving conflict. Both situations should be managed without having to rely on authority of position.

Position in the Team

It is often said that you lead from the front and manage from the back. So are managers who lead somewhere in the middle of the pack?

I believe so.

Managers who lead must tread the fine line between all the differences in this post. They are responsible to upper management but should also be willing to put their neck on the line to support their team.

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Andy Trainer

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David says:

My experience is that leaders have earned respect. They set down expectations and give direction to head. Managers make it happen.Leaders make decisions and managers implement them.
Nothing to stop a good manager being a good leader and vice versa.
When you have been a leader you learn to lead from the rear, simply because you are bound by the whole team. However,you can set a cracking example and make people want to be part of your team. Then even the least member of the team tries to excel to impress a leader they respect.
So as a team wants a good if not great leader, then a leader requires a good if not great team.
So set expectations so people know where they stand,then stand aside as they achieve it and hopefully better the expectation. Never be shy to say the performance has been noted and further responsibility or reward or whatever can be apportioned. Recognition is good for the soul.

Andy Trainer says:

Hi David,

Thanks for your additions! I certainly could have gone on and listed some more differences/similarities! I am already planning a post on how to put leadership & management into practice.

Liderazgo vs Gestión – Cuál es la diferencia? « CasodePrueba says:

[...] Leadership vs. Management – What’s the difference? [...]

Tyler Murphy says:

Thanks for the article – I think it would be interesting to know how managers/leaders would define themselves, particularly when it comes to managing difficult people – the term leader is more inspiring and might be seen as a more approachable to employees that don’t like being ‘managed’.

Harpar.com says:

This is very interesting. Anyone can be a leader without being designated a formal responsibility. A leader can anyone from the top boss to a regular employee. It would be great if a manager has good leadership skills, same way that a good leader can benefit from learning managerial skills.

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