20 Differences Between Management & Leadership

When comparing leadership with management, it is essential to understand that they are not mutually exclusive. In his Leadership: Theory and Practice Peter Northouse pointed out that they are similar in many ways. Both leadership and management involve influence, working with people, concern about effective goal accomplishment, and other shared characteristics, etc. Additionally, as Richard Daft wrote, “leadership cannot replace management,” but rather is something that is to be practiced “in addition to management” (see The Leadership Experience, p. 15).

Per Daft, the main difference between leadership and management lies in the fact that in the classical managerial context “managers are thinkers and workers are doers,” while in a leadership context both leaders and workers/followers think, do, lead, “expand their minds and abilities to assume responsibility” for their decisions and actions.

Another researcher that wrote about management as opposed to leadership was Warren Bennis. In the On Becoming a Leader volume Bennis listed the following differences:

1. The manager administers; the leader innovates.
2. The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
3. The manager maintains; the leader develops.
4. The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
5. The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
6. The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
7. The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
8. The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
9. The manager imitates; the leader originates.
10. The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
11. The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
12. The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

Above-quoted Richard Daft looked at the differences between management and leadership from 5 different angles: (i) that of direction, (ii) alignment, (iii) relationships, (iv) personal qualities, and (v) outcomes. From characteristics that have not been mentioned by Bennis, Daft listed:

13. The manager plans and budgets; the leader creates vision and strategy [direction]
14. The manager is generally directing and controlling; the leader allows room for others to grow, and change him/her in the process [alignment]
15. The manager creates boundaries; the leader reduces them [alignment]
16. The manager’s relationship with people is based on position power; the leader’s relationship and influence is based on personal power [relationships]
17. The manager acts as boss; the leader acts as coach, facilitator, and servant [relationships]
18. The manager exhibits and focuses on (a) emotional distance, (b) expert mind, (c) talking, (d) conformity, and (e) insight into organization; the leader: (a) emotional connectedness, (b) open mind, (c) listening, (d) nonconformity, and (e) insight into self [personal qualities]
19. The manager maintains stability; the leader creates change [outcome]
20. The manager creates a culture of efficiency; the leader creates a culture of integrity [outcome]

The area of affiliate program management provides one of the most vivid illustrations to the differences between management and leadership. You cannot manage affiliates. Leadership is the only way; sensitive, respectful, open-minded leadership, making personal connections and allowing affiliate experts to steer their way to success (as opposed to an intruding, controlling and directing management) will help you succeed in building a successful affiliate program.

30 thoughts on “20 Differences Between Management & Leadership”

  1. This article is clearly differentiates between “manager” and “leader”. Useful for further discussion with my MBA [Muamalah] students at Center of Graduate Studies, Selangor International Islamic University college, Malaysia.

  2. We must accept that leadership is outdated today unless it helps people deal with the present great challenges offered by technological innovations and the emergence of the new economy. His or her mission is to develop new approaches by which people are better able to recognize, understand, and master the new world.

    The fast emergence of Islamic Financial System [in banking and insurance] as oppose to current conventional system, is a case for consideration.

    What do you think Geno?

  3. I am not familiar with the “Islamic Financial System”, but I certainly agree that modern-day leaders should be on top of the technological changes that effect people’s lives. The latest presidential elections in the U.S. showed a great example of it. One candidate was actively utilizing Twitter and Facebook, whereas the other one paid more attention to the more “traditional” means of reaching out to voters (phone, radio and TV ads, etc). The former one is now the President of the United States.

  4. Thanks Geno.

    I have redefined the definition of Management to include “THINKING” as one of the main functions on management. Traditionally management function only put forward 4 activities – Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling.

    Perhaps Geno, if you could kind go to my site as follow and give your comments to my SHAYA’A OTHMAN MATRIX MANAGEMENT, based on your wide experience in management. Your comments will be wide read by my MBA students.



  5. Hi Geno,

    First of all thanks to share this interesting article, I would like to ask you if you know which is the Difference between leadership communication and the conventional management communication?

    Best regards


  6. I think focus of leadership communication is on influencing people to follow the vision of the leader.Whereas the focus of management communication is to inform suboordinates what is expected of them to acheive preset company objectives.


  7. Thank you too much Mr.Geno
    It is very interesting article (:
    Now in this semester, am doing the project management course, and in one of its lecture we spent the whole time just discussing this point …
    Now i wish for that time to return back again, it was a good chance to share this valuable information with my collegues ..
    Sorry for this bad english .. I’m still on improving my language (:
    Thank you again ..

    1. Sumaiyah, you’re most welcome, and glad you have enjoyed this post. Leadership theory is a truly fascinating topic (mainly, because of its immediate applicability).

  8. Dear Geno,

    Thank you for the informative post. I have done some empirical research on the leadership-management distinction and wonder what your thoughts are about the possibility of “too much” differentiation between the two. I have found that they actually share many “core” competencies in common such as coordinating others, developing subordinates, acting with integrity, and improving the performance of a team. While there are some unique competencies (e.g., leadership = vision, management = controlling), they do not appear to be polar opposites.

    In fact, Bass in his theory of transformational leadership theory constantly reiterates the importance of transactional leadership behaviors. It forms the “base” from which transformational leadership can grow. A vision is needed, but the leader must also create performance-reward contingencies in order to ensure that followers are still effectively completing their work.

    I fear without further confirmation of distinct “types,” many businesses will actually come to view managers as two different people. Perhaps it is the case that excellent leaders tend to have what it takes to be excellent managers and vice-versa, given that the manager has his/her own unique passions and visions.

  9. Dan, you’ve hit the nail on the head! Leadership and management should never be considered “polar opposites”. It is never a case of an “either… or…” situation, but always a “both… and…” setup where one compliments and enriches the other …with leadership qualities always taking precedence.

  10. Hello Geno,
    I came across your post while doing research for a management presentation, and I agree with the definitions you’ve written that distinguishes the differences between leaders and managers. I am a GM and I found the information extremely well thought out. Thank you for such an enriching post. I would like to make a specific comment concerning managers. Managers should aspire to become good leaders. A good leader can inspire even though he or she may lack management skills, but a good manager must be able to lead. Managers tend to forget that subordinates look to managers for leadership. Managers enforce policy and reinforce the organizations vision, but to be truly affective a manager should be viewed as a leader of the caouse and not just an inforcer of policy.

    Thank again for the great post.

    Best Regards,

  11. Dear Geno
    Thank you very much for posting this article on managers and leaders. I am currently studying Bsc(Hons) in Marketing Management and this article was very helpful with one of my modules. I look forward to becoming a successful manager and leader as well.
    Thank you once again


  12. Dear Geno,

    Thank u for this article, i m perusing MBA in marketing specialization, i have this question in my assignment paper. thank u once again for this article.


  13. Pingback: One more time. What is the difference between management and leadership? « Post Conventional Leadership

  14. Geno, this is a good article on Leadership and Management. Thank you for sharing this. However, what about the difference between a leader, manager and worker? How can we compare worker with the highlighted points above?

  15. Pingback: Gestion ou leadership? Quelle est la différence?audacium

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