Management & Leadership, Some Differences…

A friend of mine asked me to drop him an email highlighting the differences between Management and Leadership; I thought I would share it with you…

If we accept the opinion that a Manager ‘Manages an administrative process to achieve a task/objective’ and a Leader ‘motivates and inspires a team to deliver/achieve a set goal/objective’ then by the nature of the comparison, we can see that these two roles are similar on the surface. In fact, the end goal is so similar that the difference must be in the process (the journey).

If we compare this to a set process such as supply chain then a manager is a ‘supply chain’ and a leader is a ‘value chain’. In a supply chain the process is to drive a task to being achieved, whereas the value chain is driven from the customer perspective. Both deliver a product and both have their merits, its effectiveness is based on tools you have available to you and the workforces overall ability. But that is a different story.

Back to the difference between Managers and Leaders; a Manager is generally in charge of operational effectiveness focusing on delivering the task/objectives by the allocation of resource. They tend to be process driven seeing employees as a resource not a competitive advantage. They tend to hold a strong knowledge base and impart there knowledge as and when necessary i.e. they tend to know the best way to do a task effectively.

A Leader on the other hand sees employees as the driver to achieving the goal/objectives; they spend time talking with them to ensure they are clear on the importance of the goal/objective and that they are equipped with the necessary tools to achieve them. They see administrative task such as processes and procedures as a means to an end, not the actual task and always look for a route through a problem via the employees.

In simple terms, the Leader sees the employee as the means to achieving all goals/objectives and expect the employee to hold the knowledge and expertise in the task; they embrace this position and encourage employees to improve for their own benefit, not necessarily that of the Leaders, although this will obviously have a positive effect on performance.

In short, the difference between a Leader and Manager is that of behaviour; neither is better or worse than the other. They are just different ways to getting a job done. In some industries one approach is better than the other due to that industry specific skill set.

Viewable Differences between Leaders and Managers are summarised below:

Warren Bennis composed a list of differences in his book “On becoming a leader in 1989”.

The listed differences are:

  • The leader innovates while manager administers.
  • The leader originates while manager imitates.
  • The leader develops whereas the manager maintains.
  • The leader focuses on people while the manager focuses on system and structure
  • The leader inspires trust whereas the manager relies on control.
  • The leader has a long-range perspective, whereas the manager has a short-range perspective.
  • The leader asks what and why while the manager asks how and when
  • The leader does the right thing while the manager does things right
  • The leader is his own person, whereas the manager is a classic good soldier.
  • The leader challenges the status quo while the manager accepts it.
  • The leader’s eye is on the horizon while the manager has his eyes on the bottom line.

A good example of differences of Management/Leader’s focus is that of a performance review with an employee. A manager conducts an employee performance review because it is required. I have seen countless performance documents where they are all completed accurately and to the expected standard, but talking them through with the employee afterwards you find that they can scarcely remember what they talked about during their 30 minute session. This review will probably only be looked at next quarter when the employee is measured against the criteria agreed at the previous review.

Compare this with a performance review/coffee with a Leader, who spends time with an employee and finds out about them, asked them what they need, seeks to understand their personal/professional position, aligns it to their needs with the departments/organisational needs and then agrees five points of focus for the next quarter and that’s the difference. The employee is engaged in the objective, as they have been involved in its creation, not dictated to. The Leader checks back often to ensure that the employee is progressing as planned and offers tips and advice or additional help if needed.

 Behaviour is the key (in my opinion), thinking differently about how the job can be done by placing the employee central to achieving the objective.

Training…and Self Development!

Concerning organisations promoting Managers without the necessary support is that ‘if you have always done something and now been rewarded for it, then the natural thing to do is ‘more of it – harder and faster’’ but this is the opposite of a Leader, a Leader ‘leads’ not batters the hell out of workforce through the ever need for more output.

Just like Managers are trained by process and procedures, Leaders need to be trained to think first and act second; this involves taking the time to assess what is the best route to achieving an objective. To this end, a Leader (Jnr) should be allocated a mentor or coach, whichever is appropriate; this will depend on your personal need.

*All comments are based on my personal experiences and given freely. That said, you need to make your own choices. I can’t and won’t accept liability for you employing any recommendations. Business is all about risk. It’s your choice.

Nigel stone has, over the last fifteen years, started, led, consulted and nurtured both UK and European businesses to achieve quite outstanding results. Please feel free to drop me an email at


One thought on “Management & Leadership, Some Differences…

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