Are you a Leader Or Manager; Why not both?


When Frederick Taylor began his studies in Scientific Management, he used a stopwatch to track productivity with the goal of improving performance. The manager’s function in Taylor’s day was the one who took control to ensure productivity and profit. For most of the 20th century management was the main item on the agenda. Many universities and companies developed in-depth management training programmes. However, people were taught little about leadership. Today it seems the scale is lopsided once again, this time with more emphasis being placed on leadership. Everyone wants to be categorized as a leader.


Leadership vs Management - What’s the Difference?

The terms “Management” and “Leadership” are often interchanged. In fact, many people view them as basically the same thing.

Leadership is the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of goals. Management on the other hand, is the use of authority inherent in designated formal rank to obtain compliance from organizational members. It is the set of processes that keep an organization functioning.

Management is a science which can be learnt and taught; leadership is an art. Management is a function whilst leadership is relationship. Leadership is about getting people to understand and believe in your vision and to work with you to achieve your goals.

Leadership is largely situational. Leadership seems to emerge when a situation emerges that demands someone to take the helm.

One key distinction between management and leadership is that we manage "things" and lead "people."

 “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work , and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery


The two concepts are indeed quite distinct and understanding differences between leadership and management can ensure you see where you can improve and not assume you are simply good at both. By contrasting them and understanding their differences we can better balance and develop these essential roles.

1. Decision Making - Participative vs Directive 

Leadership - "follow me into the battle." Management - "now you go ahead as discussed and planned." Managers delegate and assign duties while leaders actively participate. Leaders show how it is done and back up their team with the support to help them succeed. Managers are required to have experience and formal academic qualifications but for leaders this may not necessarily be a prerequisite.

 2. Approach - Vision vs Administration

Leaders are focused on the mission and are interested in the big picture. Managers are accountable for the present. Leaders are accountable for the future. Managers organize and plan to meet this year’s objectives. Leaders create a vision of the years down the road that will change the course of history.

 3. Style - Transformational vs Transactional

The leader is chosen by his team whilst the manager in most cases chooses his team.

The manager relies on control; the leader relies on trust. They trust their team to deliver and their team trusts their leadership. Leaders focus on team building. They coach individuals to grow and expand. Dictating through an autocratic management style will not win the hearts and minds of individuals so leadership plays an important role in leading and motivating the teams to achieve those new limits.


4. Power - Influence vs Formal Authority

Leaders command respect. Managers demand it. The term manager means you are a steward, custodian of someone else’s belonging. Managers are  the instruments of corporate policy whereas leadership is selling a vision that you require others to buy into.

 “Leaders put a fire in people while managers put fire under people.” - Kathy Austin


5. Focus - People Oriented vs Task Oriented

Managers get results in spite of the people. Leaders get result because of the people. As one employee stated, “Managers only get my best because of the expectations I have set for myself, not for them.

Management is monitoring KPI’s, numbers and spreadsheets. A manager is interested in the bottom line. A leader is interested in his / her followers (the people who will deliver the process that leads to the bottom line). 

  “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall” -Stephen R Covey

 6. Risk Tolerance - Risk Seeking vs Risk Averse

Leadership is about change. Leaders innovate, develop and invent whilst managers maintain conformance to existing standards. They “go by the book.” Leaders set new direction as their focus is on creating new paths. They take people to places they have never been. Managers keep them in place.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”    - Peter Drucker


7. Motivation - Achievement vs Compensation

Being a manager is a job, you implement the practices of the organization. Being a leader is a role, you guide, inspire etc. Their fulfillment comes in bringing about positive change. A good leader puts the interest of their followers before their own, they measure success by whether their followers are better off.




Taking the Next Step towards Leadership

It’s not impossible for a manager to become a leader. Sometimes it just takes being aware of what they need to do to fulfill their responsibilities as a leader. Managers can become effective leaders by adopting the following.

  1. Vision – Focusing on the long term vision, the big picture. Leadership is about reducing fear and increasing hope.
  2. Integrity – Good leaders are honest, fair and trustworthy.
  3. Team Building – Creating a climate that encourages and values the contributions of team members. Show that you genuinely care.
  4. Communication – Good communication skills is essential for effective leadership. Always keep your team informed. Be open and honest. Listen with the intention of understanding and welcome feedback.
  5. Inspiration – Inspiring and motivating others to be all they can be.
  6. Continuous Learning – Successful leaders strive for ongoing personal development. Developing leadership skills is a lifetime project. 
  7. Humility – Don’t think you are too high up the hierarchical ladder to get involved. Aim to serve rather than be served (servant leadership).
  8. Relationship Building – Spend time with and get to know your team. The most effective leaders build their relationships through trust.
  9. Risk Taking – Don’t be afraid to do things differently; to develop new pathways. Welcome new ideas and embrace creativity.
  10. Reward and Recognition – Acknowledging and appreciating each team member’s contribution and giving meaningful rewards is essential to keeping them happy.

 Are all Leaders Managers?

Many people believe that being a good leader automatically means you’re a good manager and vice versa. Sometimes great leaders aren’t able to effectively manage people because they’re thinking too macro and not enough micro.

Don’t assume that someone who has a proven track record in leadership or management automatically possesses the other skill. Leaders don’t always make good managers. It is a rare individual who excels in both of these things. Both however are critical to success in a high growth business.


In this time of economic uncertainty, technological advancement coupled with the increasingly complex and volatile business environment, the need to demonstrate both leadership and management in perfect situational correlations has never been more critical for success. The two go hand in hand and there has never been a time in history when individuals that possess a blend of both leadership and management skills are more in demand than today.


Being able to blend these two styles is truly a unique skill set. Keep in mind there is an abundance of managers in the world but very few embody the characteristics of leaders.


Therefore, both management and leadership are needed just as the right and left wing are both essential in an airplane’s flight. Although there will be high turbulence, passenger disruptions and the need to alternate between altitudes, both leadership and management are required to steer the organization to a successful landing, thereby reaching its projected destination in an effective and efficient manner.


Full article is contained in my new book. The Edge of Leadership: A Leader's Handbook for Success.

Online - Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in both Paper book and E book format.