Explore the Difference Between Leadership and Management

Explore the Differences Between Leadership and Management


Often used synonymously, leadership and management are two different concepts that are closely related. It is usually assumed that the top executives are leaders and managers are the ones in the middle of the organisational structure. While they share some similarities and are important elements of a business, their functions are different. 

On one hand, managers are in control of or direct a group of people in an organisation, on the other hand, leaders inspire them. Although both leaders and managers want their teams to be successful, they approach the path to success differently. 

Holding the position of a manager does not make one a leader. Notably, leadership is the result of action. With high emotional intelligence and greater self-awareness, leaders know the art of influencing the context in which decisions get made. 

Those who are looking forward to pursuing leadership and management courses must understand that leaders and managers are like two lines that can overlap but never merge. Read ahead to know about the difference between leadership and management in order to distinguish one from another.

What is Leadership?

Responsible for setting the tone and offering direction to an organisation, leadership is the ability to guide and influence others towards a common goal. Leaders focus on the bigger picture, communicate vision and create conditions for others to make things happen. Simply put, leadership is a process of social influence that maximises others’ efforts towards a goal. 

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Moreover, leadership is about bringing change for the better. Leaders take charge of changing systems to reap the benefits of opportunities arising owing to the changing world. This makes a difference in people’s lives. Besides, leaders are also held accountable for the overall success or failure of the team.

While the phenomenon of leadership cannot be explained through one criterion, leadership skills include the ability to communicate effectively, inspire trust and confidence, build relationships, and manage conflict. Possessing strong decision-making skills, a good leader must also be able to adapt to changing circumstances.

Found at all levels of an organisation, leaders may not hold a certain position in the company hierarchy. This means they may not have a job title. Also, not necessarily, you are a leader if you are at the top or a senior executive. Or, you may be both, but that is not always true.

What is Management?

Management is considered a process to accomplish specific objectives. Notably, this process involves planning, organising, and controlling resources like people, technology and finances. Focused on efficiency and effectiveness, management is responsible for the administration and coordination of tasks. 

Management process


Responsible for ensuring that quality work is done on time, managers are accountable for the performance of their team. Also, they are responsible for solving problems, bringing results, delegating tasks, monitoring performance, providing feedback, and making decisions. 

It is vital for a good manager to possess strong organisational skills. In addition, he/she should be able to prioritise tasks and resources effectively.

Typically found in formal positions of authority, managers can serve as department heads or supervisors.

Differences: Leadership Vs Management

Following are the  major differences between leadership and management

  • While leadership is focused on people, management lays emphasis on processes and systems. Also, leaders are known to inspire and motivate people in an organisation towards a common goal, but managers are concerned with the completion of tasks efficiently and effectively.
  • Leadership is involved in developing a vision and communicating the same. And, management ensures the implementation of that vision. In addition, leaders are responsible for setting the direction and tone of an organisation, and managers work in line with that direction or follow the directed path.
  • Building relationships and trust is what leadership focuses on. On the other hand, management invests in controlling and monitoring performance. While leaders work to inspire people, managers delegate tasks to them to ensure that the work is completed to a high standard.
  • Leadership always welcomes innovative ideas and creative thoughts, but management aims to maintain stability. On one hand, leaders encourage others in the organisation to take risks and adopt new approaches, on the other hand, managers ensure that processes are in place to achieve predictable outcomes.
  • Leadership, often seen as an innate quality, doesn’t demand any formal qualification. But, management is a skill that can be acquired through training. That is why managers are expected to have specific qualifications or certifications.
  • Effective leaders believe in guiding change and capitalising on opportunities, whereas managers focus on accomplishing organisational goals through processes like budgeting, staffing and organisational structuring.
Differences between leadership and management


Case Studies: Leadership vs Management

In order to better understand the key differences between leadership and management, let’s read the following case studies: 

  • Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell: Known for his innovative and visionary leadership style, Elon Musk is the CEO and founder of SpaceX. He is committed to developing new technologies to push the boundaries of space exploration. He also inspires his employees to be creative and innovative at work. On the other hand, Gwynne Shotwell – COO of SpaceX – is focused on implementing processes. As a manager, she ensures that the company’s operations are efficient and effective.
  • Steve Jobs and Tim Cook: Popular for his visionary leadership style, Steve Jobs was the founder and CEO of Apple. He focused on developing products to revolutionise the tech industry. Also, he was known for inspiring and motivating employees to achieve the company’s vision. Tim Cook took over as CEO after his death in 2011. Cook emphasised implementing processes, achieving operational efficiency and improving the company’s supply chain. He was a manager who focused on reducing costs, optimising processes, and increasing profits.

Desirable Skills for Leaders and Managers

Since there are many differences between leadership and management, the skillset needed to fulfil the duties and responsibilities of a leader and a manager is not the same either. A passionate leader will create a sense of value and direction, while a diligent manager will organise work processes. 

Key Leadership Skills 

With the ability to clearly see the future picture, a leader must be able to assess the situation and formulate a vision for the betterment of the company. They help implement core company values and purpose. 

They must possess the ability to inspire people. Their passion and faith motivate people in an organisation to move forward. The enthusiasm of leaders is contagious and this makes people follow them. It is important to clearly communicate the vision so that everyone resonates with each other.

Leaders are attentive and have the ability to recognise change easily. They believe in staying out of their comfort zone during a change to make the most of the opportunities available. It is important to scan the business environment in order to bring about changes necessary to meet the requirements of the new reality.

A good leader is able to analyse the current situation and predict possible challenges. Displaying analytical and creative skills, they are able to understand the consequences of a particular decision. Thinking strategically helps leaders come up with innovative solutions in the form of long-term plans to suit the changing environment.    

Key Management Skills 

Efficient managers must possess organisational skills as they are required to increase productivity and resourcefulness. Managers are needed to organise various activities like outline tasks, give assignments and create schedules. They are also charged with the responsibility of achieving company goals by devising a plan.

In addition, managers must possess skills like planning, analytical thinking, delegation, and communication. These skills help to organise a smooth work process and develop conditions to collaborate for the accomplishment of company goals. 

Further, it is important to have conflict resolution skills for a manager to work smoothly. Managers should not only address problems quickly but also find solutions simultaneously. Also, they must listen to everyone to understand different points of view. 

Team building is the responsibility of managers. He/she must ensure that people in a team collaborate with each other and that their efforts are synchronised.

Moreover, time management skills act as an asset for managers who need to assign and control different activities. A manager is responsible for setting priorities and time limits on tasks. 

Last but not least, managers may not perform technical tasks, but they should possess the related skills. It is appreciated if a manager steps in to help the team with a technical task.

Roles and Responsibilities of Leaders and Managers

As managers work closely with team members, they are responsible for guiding them and giving positive and negative feedback. The basic responsibilities of a manager can be categorised into the following groups:

Planning and budgeting

This involves determining objectives and creating plans to achieve them. Managers also plan initial processes and are responsible for making adjustments in the course of work.

Controlling and problem-solving

Managers perform evaluations to optimise and improve employee performance.

Organising and staffing

They are responsible for hiring the right resources and making efforts to retain them.

Besides, here are the common responsibilities leaders fulfil:

  • Setting an example
  • Making strategic decisions
  • Coordinating people and activities
  • Inspiring and motivating the team
  • Communicating goals
  • Evaluating the business performance 
  • Working for the welfare of employees

Leadership and Management Courses

Leadership and management involve different strengths that help a business become successful or achieve great heights. While leadership offers the vision and direction that inspires employees to work for a common goal, management streamlines processes and systems to ensure that the job is completed efficiently and effectively. 

Despite differences between leadership and management, their combination helps businesses achieve stability, enhance productivity and improve efficiency through innovative and creative solutions. Successful organisations understand the significance of leadership and management, and that is why they invest in skill development executive education programmes. Such courses combine leadership and management training to help employees acquire the skillset to succeed in related roles.

Executive education can be helpful for people working in leadership positions. These programmes help candidates develop industry-relevant skills like effective communication, visioning, strategic decision making and strategic planning. With the help of these skills, leaders can inspire and motivate their team members towards a common goal and also develop a positive culture and healthy work environment.

Further, these leadership and management courses can help managers develop skills in the areas of project management, process improvement, team management and budgeting. Notably, these skills help managers ensure that work is completed efficiently and resources have been optimised.

Notably, most of the executive education programmes combine both leadership and management training that help develop a better understanding of the business and the challenges an organisation faces. Leaders and managers can also learn new tools and strategies to address business challenges in a comprehensive way.

Apart from this, leadership and management courses focus on experiential learning to enhance practical skills and provide real-world exposure. They offer opportunities to engage in team-based projects, case study discussions, and simulations covering complex business scenarios, such as the one offered by IIM Mumbai – General Management Programme.

To enroll in such programmes, applicants must have at least one year of full-time work experience after graduation. Also, graduates or diploma holders from a recognized university can easily apply. It is to be noted that the candidate must possess a degree/diploma and work experience in a field relevant to the programme.


In a nutshell, both leadership and management are vital for the success of a business. Leaders engage in creating vision and managers focus on setting the plan in motion. But, a company can lose its direction and purpose in the absence of effective leadership. Notably, leaders help companies sail through rough waters. 

While managers control people, reduce risks, and provide resources, leaders inspire, look for opportunities, and offer vision and autonomy. Leadership and management can be considered the two sides of the same coin where one cannot exist without the other.

When an open-minded leader holding a clear vision and strategic thinking, and a manager with strong organisational and technical skills collaborate, a powerful synergistic effect that surpasses the impact of individual approach can be witnessed.

It is important to realise that both leaders and managers work towards the same organisational goals, but their approaches are different. Despite differences between leadership and management, both leaders and managers care for effective teamwork, are focused on achievements, empower their people and try to achieve effectiveness. 

To be successful in both roles, it is important to control the team and understand its needs. Also, it is vital to align oneself with the organisation and its purpose. To successfully perform leadership and management duties, it is important to consider the workplace environment, culture and values, psychological climate, current work processes, the place of your company in the market, and communication with customers and investors.

Acquiring management and leadership skills is challenging and requires continuous hard work. But, to be successful in this endeavour, one can enroll in reputable leadership and management courses for career growth.


What are the differences between a manager and a leader?

Leaders inspire and motivate people who want to follow them. And, a manager controls people, organises tasks, and solves problems. While managers’ performances are based on their team achieving goals, leaders are judged by people’s willingness to follow.

What are the most important skills a leader must possess?

A leader never asks people to do things he/she is not willing to do himself/herself. They are empathetic and consider how their actions can impact people around them. Leaders are also willing to empower people who can carry the change necessary for the success of the organisation. 

What are the in-demand skills for leaders and managers?

Strategic thinking, data-driven decision-making, digital literacy, team management, communication and influencing, adaptability and resilience, and emotional intelligence are desired skills that organisations look for while hiring people in leadership and management roles.   

What are the career paths candidates can take after pursuing leadership and management courses?

After completing leadership and management courses, one becomes eligible to take up the roles and responsibilities as a general manager, chief operating officer (COO), senior manager, operations manager, human resources manager, project manager and consulting executive, amongst others. 

What are the roles of a leader?

A leader leads by example, acknowledges talent, resolves conflicts, communicates effectively with people in the organisation, and creates a positive and inclusive work environment.  

Can students from a STEM background pursue leadership and management courses?

Candidates with a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) background possess strong analytical and problem-solving skills. They are familiar with data analysis and related technologies that help build research abilities. Considering this, STEM candidates can pursue leadership and management courses without any hassle. 

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