The Difference Between Leadership and Management: 7 Key Takeaways

The difference between leadership and management is often hard to distinguish. In this post, we will clear up the confusion and break down the seven key differences between the two.

When we sit down and really think about who we class as leaders and who we class as managers it should become a bit clearer to identify the differences.

People such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos will often fall into the category of leader, while managers tend to be those that work for the leaders.

To clearly identify the difference between leadership and management it’s important to look at what leaders and managers actually do, as well as the traits they possess. So let’s jump in and take a look before we highlight the 7 key differences.

What does a manager do?

A manager is someone that works for an organisation that is responsible for carrying out four crucial tasks; planning organising, leading, and controlling.

It’s common for managers to also be leaders. However, this can only be the case if they are able to perform the leadership responsibilities of management. Some of these responsibilities include motivation, communication, inspiration, and guidance.

Quite often, managers will struggle to be leaders. Some managers will lack the leadership qualities required and employees will only follow instruction from their managers as they are contractually obligated to do so.

Managerial duties are usually part of a formal job description and a manager’s main aim and set of skills are to meet the goals and objectives of the organisation.

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Managers will be held responsible for their own actions, as well as their teams. The job title comes with the authority to hire, fire, promote staff as they see fit.

What does a leader do?

One of the main differences between leadership and management is that leaders will not always have a management position at the company. In other words, a leader doesn’t have to be a person with authority, it can be anyone.

Unlike a manager, leaders are primarily followed because of their personality and actions. A leader will typically invest time in tasks and projects that show a strong element of passion.

Leaders will take a vested interest in the success of their followers and will take as much pride in seeing them progress as themselves, both in a personal and professional capacity.

The team members of a manager are required to follow orders as they are written into their work contracts, whereas following the orders of a leader is often optional. It’s something someone chooses to do because they feel inspired by someone and genuinely want to work for them.

Leaders are typically people that challenge the norm. They are visionaries, creatives, and agile in everything they do.

The key traits of a manager

Ability to execute

Managers are able to take a strategic vision and break it down into a clear plan for their team members to follow.

Able to give direction

Managers are responsible for giving day-to-day direction to their team members to keep them on track of the projects they are working on.


Managers have the mandate to create their own processes to execute their plans. This can be anything from work rules, processes, and minimum standards.

Focused on the team

Managers are responsible for the team they manage. They will need to listen to their team members, bring them into certain decisions, and be accomodating to the needs of the team.

The key traits of a leader


A leader will be the visionary. They will be the ones identifying the destination.


Leaders are often extremely inspirational. They will have people wanting to work for them because they buy into the vision of the leader. They see the direction the leader wants to go and they want to go there too.

Always challenge

Leaders will always challenge traditional thinking and will always think outside the box. If you tell a leader something can’t be done, they will often keep working until they find a way it can be done.

Always communicating

A leader will always keep their followers up to date with what’s happening now and what they expect to happen in the future. This keeps people bought into the vision as they feel close to what is happening day in and day out.

What Is the Difference Between Leadership and Management? 7 Key Takeaways

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What is the difference between leadership and management?

Now we have broken down exactly what a manager and leader do and looked at the key traits of both, it’s time to have a look at the main difference between leadership and management.

There are seven in total so let’s jump in and take a took.

Leaders create the vision, managers execute

Leaders will paint the picture of what they believe is possible and inspire everyone around them to believe it’s possible to achieve. They will start engaging with their team to turn the vision into a reality by inspiring them to go on a journey together.

Managers are the ones who will take the vision and work with the leader to break it down and then go and execute the vision with their team members.

The manager will focus on setting, measuring, and achieving the goals that will take them closer to the vision. They will lead the day-to-day actions that are necessary to achieve the leader’s vision.

Leaders challenge, managers follow a process

Leaders will always look to challenge what is deemed achievable, they will think outside the box. A leader will always look to improve on something even if it is working well at the moment.

They understand that if you stay stuck in your ways, you can get left behind. You always need to be looking to the future.

Managers will stick with what they know and what works. They will follow a set process that they know will get them results in the short term.

Leaders are one of a kind, managers replicate

Leaders are all very different and have their own approach about how to do things. They are comfortable being different and are willing to stand out from the crowd if it’s something they believe is right.

Managers tend to replicate the skills, competencies, and processes they learn from others and previous managers of theirs. They will follow a process that they believe works, instead of creating something unique.

Leaders are risk-takers, managers limit the risk

Leaders are willing to take a risk if it means getting them closer to their big vision. They see the value in failing, as the more times you fail the closer it gets you to where you want to go.

Leaders will not let their egos getting in the way of success.

Managers mostly work to minimise risk. They will develop structures and processes that are designed to be efficient and deliver results. They would prefer to avoid problems rather than embracing them.

Leaders are long term thinkers, managers are short term thinkers

Leaders are working towards a bigger vision, they understand that this can take time.

The skill in being a long-term thinker is continuing to have the passion and motivation to reach your destination even if you are not seeing instant results.

Managers work on short-term goals and deadlines. They have broken down the vision into smaller parts and will execute them on an on-going basis. They are directly accountable for their short-term achievements.

Leaders focus on people, managers focus on systems

Leaders will almost always focus on the people around them, they rely on all the stakeholders to help them achieve their long-term vision.

They will spend time making sure all stakeholders believe in the vision, motivating and inspiring them to go out and deliver every day.

Managers will focus on the systems needed to deliver the daily results that will take everyone closer to the vision of the leader.

They work with individual team members every day to make sure everyone is aligned and working towards the same goal.

Leaders have loyal followers, managers have staff

Leaders often have people that will go above and beyond what is expected of them. The leader has created a vision so clear and powerful that their followers want to achieve it as much as they do.

Having people that are willing to go the extra mile is exactly what is needed to achieve the big visions of leaders.

Managers typically have staff that follows orders just because they have to, it’s written into their contracts. They aren’t necessarily bought into the vision and so can lack the desire and motivation to go the extra mile.

In Summary

The difference between leadership and management is not always clear. However, there are some critical differences between the two.

Leaders are those that create a vision and have people working for them who buy into the vision and want to succeed in achieving that vision alongside the leader.

Managers will be the ones creating the systems and processes that are needed to execute the day-to-day tasks that will take everyone closer to the bigger vision.

Some of us have the natural ability to be a leader, and some of us are more suited to becoming a manager. There is no right or wrong.

About the Author

Adam Jones writes for The Growth Reactor which is a blog that will help you upgrade your life at start-up speed. The Growth Reactor provides all the latest actionable insights and tips on the most popular self-development trends around today.

Team 6Q

Team 6Q