Leadership Versus Management: 5 Key Differences

What is the difference between a leader and a manager? There seems to be a thin line that separates a leader from that of a manager. But these two are actually distinct roles that occur simultaneously and often have overlaps. What’s important is to be able to identify this distinction and see how these roles play out and impact the organization.

1. Leadership is an intrinsic trait while management is an appointed role. Some people are born leaders. This gift is evident in whatever function or role they may be playing. The position of leadership may also be entrusted to them in a more official role. But their potential to lead, inspire and influence other people will definitely manifest. Managers are meanwhile promoted to their position in line with work and acquired skills. Subordinates follow them as a consequence of their appointed authority.

2. Leadership defines the organization and its culture. Management deals with direction and execution.  
Organisations are defined by the leadership at the helm. Oftentimes, leaders become their own brand and act as brand ambassadors. And given the level of influence they have on their respective organizations, culture also emanates from them.

But what  is the difference between a leader and a manager at this point? They too contribute to how organizational culture is shaped. However, we will only find tidbits of influence considering the narrow scope of their mandate.
Managers are responsible for implementing policies and work plans, and direct the activities of their crew. They likewise see to it that execution is aligned with set short and long term objectives.

3. Management is more goal oriented while leadership is sustained by vision.

Leaders are in it for the long haul. In fact, they have founded the mission and vision that steer the organization towards a conceived future. Strategic formulation is entrusted upon corporate leaders like CEOs, presidents and the board of directors. Their vision for the future encompass the short and medium term plans that are formulated and implemented by department and unit managers. This is a very important distinction that defines what is the difference between a leader and a manager.

4. Leadership builds an enterprise or an organization while management sustains it.

We’ve seen solo entrepreneurs successfully grow multi billion dollar businesses. We’ve also witnessed adroit CEOs take over a struggling company to renew the brand and improve the company’s  bottom lines. You see, leadership is at the very core of building and transforming not only an enterprise but a nation. In fact, the digital age has changed the status quo for world leaders as the influence of liberalism has waned in the last few years.

Management on the other hand deals with maintaining the status quo and minimizing risk. Managers cannot be disruptors like CEOs since that would expose the company to certain risks. It would likewise hamper, not only the proper functioning of their departments but also that of dependent units.

5. Leadership is transformative while management is administrative in nature.
This definition puts more emphasis on what is the difference between a leader and a manager. Leaders need not be engaged in the day to  day affairs of functional unit or department of an enterprise to serve their purpose. But as the chief executive officer, he has the power to transform an organization in such a way to benefit stakeholders. He is the primary driver of change in a company.

Managers are leaders too in their own way. But given their administrative function and scope of authority, their influence will only be confined with the department or unit they are managing.

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