Are you a Manager or a Leader?

Management and Leadership are often interchanged within the business world; however, they are two very distinct skill sets. Management is essentially process/task focussed and centres on the current and immediate future. Whereas, Leadership is much more people focused and future focused. It includes setting culture & direction for the organisation.


“Every Leader is a manager but every manager is not necessarily a leader “  Are all managers leaders? The single fact of being put in charge of others does not immediately confer leadership status. Organizations need both managers and leaders - sometimes they are one and the same.However, many managers will never make the grade of leader and many leaders are hopeless managers. Both leaders and managers have their role to play in business life today but the two roles are not one and the same.

The significant difference between a leader and a manager is that: A manager will be appointed to a position and has the possibility of developing leadership skills and of being recognized as a leader, whereas…..A leader is recognized by the people around them as someone who provides leadership for them in a particular situation whatever the individual’s official role.


The following shows the distinct elements which fall under each category.



• Scheduling work
• Delegating tasks
• Use analytical data to support recommendations
• Motivating staff
• Ensuring predictability
• Co-ordinate effort
• Co-ordinate resources
• Give orders and instructions
• Guide progress
• Monitor progress
• Check task completion
• Follow systems and procedures
• Monitor budgets, tasks etc
• Use analytical data to forecast trends
• Monitoring progress
• Appeal to rational thinking
• Build teams


• Provide feedback on performance
• Act as interface between team and outside
• Plan and prioritise steps to task achievement
• Explain goals, plan and roles
• Inspiring people
• Appeal to peoples’ emotions
• Sharing a vision
• Provide focus
• Monitor feelings and morale
• Create a ‘culture’
• Create a positive team feeling
• Ensure effective induction
• Provide development opportunities
• Unleashing potential
• Look ‘over the horizon’
• Take risks
• Be a good role model

 In his role as a demonizer of managers, Bennis (1989) identified 12 distinctions between managers and leaders:

1. Managers administer, leaders innovate.
2. Managers ask how and when, leaders ask what and why.
3. Managers focus on systems, leaders focus on people.
4. Managers do things right, leaders do the right things.
5. Managers maintain, leaders develop.
6. Managers rely on control, leaders inspire trust.
7. Managers have a short-term perspective, leaders have a longer-term perspective.
8. Managers accept the status quo, leaders challenge the status quo.
9. Managers have an eye on the bottom line, leaders have an eye on the horizon.
10. Managers imitate, leaders originate.
11. Managers emulate the classic good soldier, leaders are their own person.
12. Managers copy, leaders show originality.

Paul Birch (1999) also saw a distinction between leadership and management and, without denigrating management, gave pre-eminence to leadership. He observed that, as a broad generalization, managers concerned themselves with tasks, while leaders concerned themselves with people. However, one of the main things that characterize great leaders is the fact that they achieve. The difference is that leaders realize that tasks are achieved through the goodwill and support of others (infl uence), while managers may not. This goodwill and support  originates in the leader seeing people as people, not as another resource for use in getting results. The manager has the role of organizing resources to get something done. People form one of these resources, and poor managers treat people as just another interchangeable factor of production. 


More positive distinctions between management and leadership were made by Kotter (1991), as set out as follows :  


Management involves

Focusing on managing complexity by planning and budgeting with the aim of producing orderly results, not change. Developing the capacity to achieve plans by creating an organization structure and staffing it – developing human systems that can implement plans as precisely and efficiently as possible. Ensuring planning accomplishment by controlling and problem-solving – formally and informally comparing results to the plan, identifying deviations and then planning and organizing to solve the problems.


Leadership involves

Focusing on producing change by developing a vision for the future along with strategies for bringing about the changes needed to achieve that vision. Aligning people by communicating the new direction and creating coalitions that understand the vision and are committed to its achievement. Using motivation to energize people, not by pushing them in the right direction as control mechanisms do, but by satisfying basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, recognition, self-esteem, a feeling of control over one’s life and the ability to live up to one’s ideals.



The answer to the issues raised by these various comparisons is that management and leadership are indeed different. Management is concerned with the effective use of all resources, including people, while leadership concentrates on getting the best out of people. However, both are needed. As Mintzberg (2004) commented, ‘instead of isolating leadership we need to diffuse it throughout the organization… It’s time to bring management and leadership down to earth’.

Perhaps the most familiar definition of management was made by Mary Parker Follett (1924), a pioneering writer on management. She defined it as ‘the art of getting results through people’,thus combining the concepts of management and leadership. Rather than pursuing the Manichean view (‘leaders good, managers bad’) it is better to accept that managers have to be leaders and leaders are often, but not always, managers. It is necessary to allow for a reciprocal relationship between leadership and management, implying that an effective manager should possess leadership skills, and an effective leader, at least in business, should demonstrate management skills.

For more on leadership and management skills, check out our instant download Leadership skills training package "Lead, Motivate & Inspire" and management skills customizable training package "Managing People"