The Difference Between Management & Leadership

The Difference Between Management & Leadership

By Natalie Backora

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


We’ve all heard this saying before, but what does it really mean? Isn’t that what managers and leaders are supposed to do? Is a manager and a leader the same thing? To put it bluntly – no.


Of course, the concepts of management and leadership go hand in hand, and most of the time people can manage and lead simultaneously.  But there are some major differences between the two. Looking at the definition of leadership, it can be easy to use this term interchangeably with management, but after it’s broken down, it’s so much more.

“Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.”

Northouse, P.G. (2019). Leadership: Theory and practice.New York, NY: Sage.


Here’s the breakdown: Leadership is a process. This means that leadership is dynamic, constantly evolving and changing to the needs of others. There is an individual influencer. Someone must be the one to call the shots and enact the execution of a plan, whether they are assigned or emerge. Leaders lead in groups, which can be large or small, and an interaction is occurring. Finally, there is a common goal that the entire group is working toward achieving.


On the other hand, management is essentially task-oriented and involves a simpler approach involving organization and control. Managers are rule-bound and want to do things in an orderly fashion and complete the task at hand. There is order, there are guidelines, and there is a right and wrong way to perform every operation. This is a great tool to have, but sometimes just being a manager isn’t enough.


Instead of just herding your followership toward the right direction and hoping for the best, you need to guide and motivate your followers, adapting your leadership style to each individual. Some employees require a more directive style of leadership, being told exactly what to do and how to do it. Others require a more supportive style. They might be confident and motivated yet need those words of affirmation to solidify their achievements.


Great leaders adjust, adapt, and breed new leaders, because a great leader knows they can’t be a great leader all the time. Sometimes you have to sit back, let someone else take the reins, and practice being a great follower. Great leaders are also great servants. They are transformational, not just transactional.


At SOLVE, this is what we thrive on. One of the many things we excel at is leadership development. We help others increase their abilities, sharpen their skills, and create more confidence in order to improve the efficiency and efficacy of their leadership and followership. In order to be a well-oiled machine, every single cog, no matter how big or small, needs to be working at their maximum abilities. Otherwise, you’re just spinning in place. Leadership development is crucial to companies that want to progress, prosper, and make strides toward success. If you’re not sure how to accomplish this, that’s where we come in.


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