The difference between Leadership & Management

The difference between Leadership & Management

Leadership and Management

There are countless different definitions of leadership and recognition of leadership skills. It is important that we establish a clear definition around what leadership means to enable us to look at how we might develop our leadership skills. It will be useful also to put leadership into context with management as the 2 do sometimes get confused. There are jobs and roles in organisations that carry the title of ‘manager’ which also identify the need for leadership skills in the person specification.

Warren Bennis, in his book On Becoming a Leader (1989), compared leaders and managers. He concluded that leaders were people who were the driving force in a business or organisation, innovating and initiating change, inspiring people to high levels of performance and challenging the status quo. Managers, on the other hand, were the people who organised, controlled and administered the resources available to achieve the tasks set by leaders. The table below illustrates the differences Bennis observed.

Leaders: Managers:

Inspire Control

Think Act

Motivate Organise

Initiate change Adjust to change

Challenge the status quo – Accept current practice –

asking ‘what’ and ‘why’ asking ‘how’ and ‘when’

Innovate Administer

Originate Imitate

Develop Maintain

Set the pace – the ‘vision’ Follow procedure

(Adapted from Bennis 1989)

Another way of looking at the difference between leadership and management is to recognise the difference between ‘doing the right thing’ and ‘doing things right’. Leaders do the right thing while managers concentrate on doing things right.


There are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there have been great leaders!

For example, the British military has previously defined leadership as:

‘Getting someone to do what you want them to do, even if they don’t want to do it’

This definition is very near to that offered by President Dwight Eisenhower which the British military has since adopted. He defined leadership as:

‘Getting someone to want to do what you want them to do’

Eisenhower’s definition sets out a challenge to any potential leader, namely, how to get people to follow you and to carry out your wishes. His assertion suggests that effective leadership is based upon the leader having a positive impact upon the people he is trying to lead. Adrian Gilpin of the Institute of Human Development underlines and reinforces the importance of this in his definition of leadership, stating that leadership is:

‘… the impact you have on yourself and the impact you have on people around you’

These definitions indicate that leadership is as much about the individual leader as it is about his or her training. In other words, while there are things that you can learn that will assist you as a leader, leadership is concerned more with our ability to influence and persuade our colleagues to follow our direction. Thus, effective leadership can depend very much on the personal qualities, characteristics and behaviours of the leader.

Find out more about leadership & management qualifications here

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