Leadership vs management: The 5 key differences

An image of bees working in a hive representing leadership vs management.

You may have heard the terms “leadership” and “management” thrown around quite a lot lately — especially as they’ve been heralded as 2 of the 4  most in demand workplaces skills in 2023 by LinkedIn’s popular Workplace Learning report. You might have even wondered what each term really means, particularly in our increasingly remote and hybrid workplaces. Well, in this blog we’re exploring leadership vs management, so here’s your answer:

Leadership is about setting the vision for your team, your organisation or even a project. It’s about having a clear direction and taking action to achieve it.

But wait! Don’t managers do those things too?

Yes! In fact, many companies use both terms interchangeably these days without realising there are distinct differences between them. So, let’s look at how these two roles’ leadership vs management really differ from each other.

FREE infographic: Management trends in 2023

Get ahead of the curve and learn about the startling trends affecting management.

What is leadership?

Leadership is the ability of an individual to influence, and empower others to work together to achieve success for an organisation.

Crucially, leadership requires vision — a plan for how you want things to be within your organisation or team. But it’s also about change, because potentially your vision is for things to be different from how they are now. Whether these are positive changes or potentially negative changes — such as mergers, downsizing etc. Leadership is about being able to bring people on board with these changes and also about inspiring people to sometimes go beyond their comfort zone.

For example: imagine your company has been doing something one way for years. You join the company and you see how much money (or time, or resources) could be saved by making a switch and decide that this particular practice needs to change immediately. However, some team members are resistant because they’re comfortable with how things are currently being done and they don’t want any disruption in their routine at work or at home as a result of these changes taking place. As a leader you’ll need to obtain buy-in from your team so that they’ll follow your lead and help make these changes a reality.

What is management?

Management is all about process. It’s about putting systems in place so that your team can do its job effectively, while leaving you to focus on the bigger picture. And this requires a unique set of skills — they may appear more surface level, but it is these abilities that make managers great at what they do best — delivering outcomes through a structured process.

Planning, organisation, problem solving, analytical ability, communication, prioritization, intelligence, drive are just some examples of these — a good manager has to bring about the actions behind every initiative.

Management requires discipline and consistency; it’s less exciting than leadership but just as important (if not more so). Managers are the mechanism behind every company, a driving force  that moves an organisation towards it’s goals with a laser focus.

What’s the difference between leadership vs management?

Here are the 5 key differences between leaders vs managers:

1. Leaders have a vision.

Leaders influence others by articulating a vision that includes what the future could look like if everyone did their bit – and of course they will do their bit because they believe in the vision too!

Managers, however, work with their team and implement processes so that the goals set by their company’s vision are executed and achieved.

2. Management is about making things work smoothly.

Managers have demanding roles and face many management challenges. They need to be good at managing people, budgets, resources, and performance, making sure that their people are getting their jobs done efficiently, all whilst staying within budget. Managers also need to be patient and pay attention to what’s going on in their teams so they can make adjustments if something isn’t working well or needs improvement.

3. Managers focus on short term goals.

Managers often have specific short-term goals they’re trying to accomplish at any given time — for example, attracting X no. of new customers, or increasing the company’s revenue by X% by the end of the year.  Managers pursue these goals through coordinated tasks and activities that develop in stages to reach a concrete outcome.

Leaders, on the other hand, are focused on the big picture and long terms results for their company and don’t get caught up in day to day wins.

4. Leaders inspire and empower people.

Whilst managers need to keep their team focused on getting their tasks done so that they can achieve their company goals, leaders focus on aligning their people, inspiring them to believe in the company initiatives and empowering them to do their best.

5. Managers hold a specific position.

A ‘manager’ title signifies a certain rank within a company and entails a set of responsibilities. However, the term ‘leader’ is associated with certain qualities — the power to influence, encourage, inspire and engage.

“The best managers are leaders, but the two are not synonymous”. While not everyone is born to become a manager (in the sense that they have a senior role in a company), everyone has the potential to learn the skills that can enable them to become a leader, no matter their position or circle of influence.


Though leaders vs managers may seem similar at first glance, through our analysis of leadership vs management, we can see they are actually two very different things. While both are vital for any business to succeed, knowing how these two roles differ can help you choose the right people for each job — or even decide which one might be more suited for you!

Finally, it’s important to know that great managers are people leaders within their teams. By setting goals, giving their people a clear directions and reasons to achieve them, and most importantly empowering them to do their best.

FREE infographic: Management trends in 2023

Get ahead of the curve and learn about the startling trends affecting management.

More of our latest news