What is the difference between management and leadership?

Does it really matter, or is it just semantics?

You cannot hope to lead or manage effectively without understanding the difference between management and leadership.

There are many views about the relationship between Leadership and Management, both in text books and in the cultures of different organisations. Some see the two terms as interchangeable, while others argue that management is simply part of the role of the leader. Others believe that management is key, with leadership playing a part in that role. So what exactly is the difference between management and leadership and does it matter?

John Kotter, Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School, argues that “…leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. Each has its own function and characteristic activities. Both are necessary for organisational success.”

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Carl Welte, a certified management consultant with over 30 years experience, defines management as “…the mental and physical effort to coordinate diverse activities to achieve desired results”. In contrast, he sees leadership as “…natural and learned ability, skill and personal characteristics to conduct interpersonal relations which influence people to take desired actions”.

It could be stated that management is about doing the right things; leadership is about doing things right.

Balancing management and leadership

One of the most challenging aspects of leadership is achieving the right balance between transactional (managing) and transformational (leading). In reality, it is a multi-dimensional process of adjusting and adapting to the changing conditions and the changing personalities of those you lead. The principal role of a manager is to achieve the organisation’s objectives. Managers do this by managing (1) themselves, (2) activities, (3) resources, (4) information and (5) people. However, leadership can also be seen as relevant to these five roles. Who doesn’t need to effectively lead themselves? What manager can achieve their objectives alone? Even without a team of direct reports, they still need to influence other people in order to meet their objectives. Good management is about achieving results through other people. It’s about influencing behaviour towards the achievement of organisational behaviour. This is what we call leadership.

Find out more with an ILM qualification

There is no silver bullet to great leadership and management, but there are sound principles you can learn and adopt. Activate Enterprise is an accredited ILM Centre and is running an Open ILM Level 3 programme, starting on 11th November in Oxford. Find out more here>>