Management vs. Leadership: What Are The Differences Between Management And Leadership?

A manager uses technical skills, knowledge, or expertise to control subordinates and achieve a goal.

A leader, on the other hand, is an individual who influences, motivates, and enables others to contribute to organizational success.

Understanding management vs. leadership

Many people assume management and leadership are one and the same thing. While there are some overlapping functions and characteristics, the terms have different meanings and should not be used interchangeably. 

For example, some individuals practice leadership without holding a formal managerial title. These people are commonly referred to as informal leaders. By the same token, many managers have no interest in true leadership or motivating subordinates vis-à-vis organizational success.

The issue of leadership vs. management has long been debated, with many scholars disagreeing on the degree of overlap between each role. Organizational psychodynamics teacher Abraham Zaleznik argued each delivered different value to a company. He suggested leaders advocated change and innovation and were concerned with understanding others, while managers advocated stability, authority, and were concerned with how things were actually accomplished.

More recent research by John Kotter, Harvard Business School Professor of Leadership, suggests management and leadership are two complementary yet distinct functions. In this case, leadership is tasked with developing a vision for the organization and aligning its employees with that vision through communication. This process creates uncertainty and change that managers then address through planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem-solving. Put differently, management is concerned with the practical implementation of the less tangible aspects of leadership.

Comparing leadership and management

To understand the complex and dynamic relationship between leadership and management, it can be helpful to consider both in terms of five pairs of attributes.

Each pair represents extreme ends of a continuum and is grouped into five categories:

  1. Thinking processes – leadership focuses on people and looks outward, while management focuses on things and looks inward.
  2. Goal setting – leadership articulates a vision, creates the future, and sees the forest. Management executes plans, improves the present, and sees the trees.
  3. Employee relations – leadership considers employees to be colleagues that should be trusted and developed. Management considers employees to be subordinates that must be controlled, directed, and coordinated.
  4. Operation – leadership does the right things, creates change, and serves subordinates. Management does things right and manages change while serving superordinates
  5. Governance – leadership uses influence and conflict to act decisively, while management uses authority, avoids conflict, and acts responsibly.

When assessing each category and attribute pair, it must be remembered they exist on a continuum. An individual may exhibit varying degrees of management or leadership characteristics, depending on the situation at hand. 

In general, however, most will tend to favor one approach over the other.

Key takeaways:

  • A manager uses technical skills, knowledge, or expertise to control subordinates and achieve a goal. Conversely, a leader is an individual who influences, motivates, and enables others to contribute to organizational success.
  • The subject of management vs. leadership has been the subject of much debate and disagreement, particularly regarding the extent to which the functions of each overlap.
  • Management vs. leadership can be understood more clearly but considering each role in terms of five categories existing on a continuum: thinking processes, goal setting, employee relations, operation, and governance. Depending on the situation, leaders may exhibit some characteristics associated with management and vice versa.

Leadership Frameworks

Leadership styles encompass the behavioral qualities of a leader. These qualities are commonly used to direct, motivate, or manage groups of people. Some of the most recognized leadership styles include Autocratic, Democratic, or Laissez-Faire leadership styles.
Transformational leadership is a style of leadership that motivates, encourages, and inspires employees to contribute to company growth. Leadership expert James McGregor Burns first described the concept of transformational leadership in a 1978 book entitled Leadership. Although Burns’ research was focused on political leaders, the term is also applicable for businesses and organizational psychology.
The theory was developed by psychologist Edwin Locke who also has a background in motivation and leadership research. Locke’s goal-setting theory of motivation provides a framework for setting effective and motivating goals. Locke was able to demonstrate that goal setting was linked to performance.
Harvard Business School professor Dr. John Kotter has been a thought-leader on organizational change, and he developed Kotter’s 8-step change model, which helps business managers deal with organizational change. Kotter created the 8-step model to drive organizational transformation.
The Value Disciplines Model was developed by authors Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema. In their model, the authors use the term value discipline to represent any method a business may use to differentiate itself. The Value Disciplines Model argues that for a business to be viable, it must be successful in three key areas: customer intimacy, product leadership, and operational excellence.
Andy Grove, helped Intel become among the most valuable companies by 1997. In his years at Intel, he conceived a management and goal-setting system, called OKR, standing for “objectives and key results.” Venture capitalist and early investor in Google, John Doerr, systematized in the book “Measure What Matters.”
Tipping Point Leadership is a low-cost means of achieving a strategic shift in an organization by focusing on extremes. Here, the extremes may refer to small groups of people, acts, and activities that exert a disproportionate influence over business performance.
The Self-Evolved Leader by Dave McKeown is a practical guide for those leading teams who wish to adopt new ways of thinking which will take their leadership skills to the next level.
Amazon fundamental principles that drove and drive the company are: Customer Obsession Ownership Invent and Simplify Are Right, A Lot Learn and Be Curious Hire and Develop the Best Insist on the Highest Standards Think Big Bias for Action Frugality Earn Trust Dive Deep Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit Deliver Results
In his book, “Competitive Advantage,” in 1985, Porter conceptualized the concept of competitive advantage, by looking at two key aspects. Industry attractiveness, and the company’s strategic positioning. The latter, according to Porter, can be achieved either via cost leadership, differentiation, or focus.

Management Frameworks

Change is an important and necessary fact of life for all organizations. But change is often unsuccessful because the people within organizations are resistant to change. Change management is a systematic approach to managing the transformation of organizational goals, values, technologies, or processes.
An effective risk management framework is crucial for any organization. The framework endeavors to protect the organization’s capital base and revenue generation capability without hindering growth. A risk management framework (RMF) allows businesses to strike a balance between taking risks and reducing them.
Timeboxing is a simple yet powerful time-management technique for improving productivity. Timeboxing describes the process of proactively scheduling a block of time to spend on a task in the future. It was first described by author James Martin in a book about agile software development.
Herzberg’s two-factor theory argues that certain workplace factors cause job satisfaction while others cause job dissatisfaction. The theory was developed by American psychologist and business management analyst Frederick Herzberg. Until his death in 2000, Herzberg was widely regarded as a pioneering thinker in motivational theory.
The Kepner-Tregoe matrix was created by management consultants Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe in the 1960s, developed to help businesses navigate the decisions they make daily, the Kepner-Tregoe matrix is a root cause analysis used in organizational decision making.
The ADKAR model is a management tool designed to assist employees and businesses in transitioning through organizational change. To maximize the chances of employees embracing change, the ADKAR model was developed by author and engineer Jeff Hiatt in 2003. The model seeks to guide people through the change process and importantly, ensure that people do not revert to habitual ways of operating after some time has passed.
The CATWOE analysis is a problem-solving strategy that asks businesses to look at an issue from six different perspectives. The CATWOE analysis is an in-depth and holistic approach to problem-solving because it enables businesses to consider all perspectives. This often forces management out of habitual ways of thinking that would otherwise hinder growth and profitability. Most importantly, the CATWOE analysis allows businesses to combine multiple perspectives into a single, unifying solution.
Agile project management (APM) is a strategy that breaks large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. In the APM methodology, each project is completed in small sections – often referred to as iterations. Each iteration is completed according to its project life cycle, beginning with the initial design and progressing to testing and then quality assurance.
A holacracy is a management strategy and an organizational structure where the power to make important decisions is distributed throughout an organization. It differs from conventional management hierarchies where power is in the hands of a select few. The core principle of a holacracy is self-organization where employees organize into several teams and then work in a self-directed fashion toward a common goal.
The CAGE Distance Framework was developed by management strategist Pankaj Ghemawat as a way for businesses to evaluate the differences between countries when developing international strategies. Therefore, be able to better execute a business strategy at the international level.
First proposed by accounting academic Robert Kaplan, the balanced scorecard is a management system that allows an organization to focus on big-picture strategic goals. The four perspectives of the balanced scorecard include financial, customer, business process, and organizational capacity. From there, according to the balanced scorecard, it’s possible to have a holistic view of the business.
Scrum is a methodology co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.
Kanban is a lean manufacturing framework first developed by Toyota in the late 1940s. The Kanban framework is a means of visualizing work as it moves through identifying potential bottlenecks. It does that through a process called just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing to optimize engineering processes, speed up manufacturing products, and improve the go-to-market strategy.
The Pomodoro Technique was created by Italian business consultant Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system where work is performed in 25-minute intervals.
Andy Grove, helped Intel become among the most valuable companies by 1997. In his years at Intel, he conceived a management and goal-setting system, called OKR, standing for “objectives and key results.” Venture capitalist and early investor in Google, John Doerr, systematized in the book “Measure What Matters.”

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