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What is the difference between Leadership and Management?

Leadership and management can often look like two sides of the same coin, but there are ways that they can be two completely separate roles with different demands; when examined, the difference between leadership and management can be obvious. In the workplace, one always needs the other to some degree, and they’re often honed in separate ways.

Unfortunately, sometimes a person in management can be a poor leader. Similarly, a person in a leadership role can overlook some of the fundamentals of managing others. Let’s pull these positions apart and ask ourselves: What is the difference between leadership and management?

What is the difference between a leader and a manager?

For the people working under a poor manager, the difference between a leader and a manager is easy to feel even if it’s not a conscious realisation. Let’s face it: you can hand somebody the title of ‘manager’ without any guarantee that they’re going to carry the role well.

A leader is somebody that is equipped to take the responsibility of guiding people. They know how to listen, when and how to push people in the right directions, how to resolve conflict, and so, so many other amazing qualities.

Managers need these qualities too, so what really makes them different?

Managers can be seen as typically tied to work-based contexts, whereas leadership can occur in pretty much any place and at any time. History is filled with people who stepped—or were pushed—into leadership roles and thrived, even when the stakes were higher than anything they’d ever dealt with before.

Managers are often important helpers in the overall shape of an organisation, which is invariably topped by a leader or group of leaders.

Almost anybody has memories of working under a poor manager whom they probably wouldn’t call a leader. Being a leader implies a level of excellence, talent, and strong philosophy that doesn’t necessarily come with management, which can entail more admin than inspiration. Above every manager, there’s a leader.

What are the traits of a manager?

This question begs another one: what separates a good boss from a bad one? Some traits of a good manager include:


Managers can be responsible for many different individuals within a business. As well as each having their own roles and responsibilities, employees under a manager can encompass a wide range of sensitive demands including time off for illness, holidays, parental leave, bereavement, work flexibility, and more.

Additionally, people come and go and a manager’s team can often grow or shrink with little notice. As such, managers need to have good organisational skills to keep track of all the various demands on their time—not forgetting their own work they need to do around this!

An organised manager is reliable and unlikely to let the important things go forgotten, letting their colleagues know that they can be depended upon.

Conflict resolver

Though it’s nice to think that the qualities of a good team in a business will prevent any falling out, but sometimes conflict is inevitable. People are all different, and sometimes our differences can rub up against each other.

Managers are there to facilitate conversation when these conflicts do arise. A good manager should be able to place themselves in the situation without dictating the direction of the resolution. At the same time, a good facilitator needs to be able to stop things getting aggressive or heated, so this can be one of the trickiest duties for a manager.


A manager who isn’t motivated to carry out their role is effectively a broken link in the chain. Quite often, managers are a channel of communication between employees and members of higher management in a business. If a manager isn’t motivated to be this node of communication, things start to break down.

Additionally, if people see their own manager enter the workplace every day with tiredness, misery, or apathy, the mood quickly trickles down and demoralises everybody else. This can particularly hit those who enter a company hoping to work their way up and prove themselves. Who wants to do that if they see the person above them drained of their motivation?

It’s important that managers really care about actually managing their people, otherwise they’re probably doing more harm than good.


Being able to delegate tasks is a core demand for a manager. However, this is also where many managers can prove themselves a little too keen to hand out jobs, and where the term ‘micromanager’ often stems from.

While managers typically need to delegate tasks, managers should also be wary of simply delegating tasks for the sake of it. This can easily make employees frustrated by feeling they have to constantly follow direction rather than being trusted to take the lead in their own work.

Instead, managers should support employees so that they feel confident in their roles, handing them tasks that are important and demand their particular strengths.

What are the traits of a leader?

While many leaders can benefit from the traits above and more, the demands on a leader can often be heavier than those of a manager, and so leadership traits are often less specific and wider-reaching. Some of these include:


A leader is often charting the course for everybody else behind them. Business leaders don’t simply come in to work and do their job. They’re the ones steering the ship and watching out for icebergs.

Visionary leaders are the ones that aren’t only keeping an eye on what’s up ahead, but also seeing what could be. Leaders that can read between the lines and sense upcoming challenges or opportunities to improve without needing them to explicitly impact everyone first are invaluable for everybody relying on them.

Leaders with vision are also able to visualise what others see and imagine, making them more collaborative and empathetic.


Good communication as a leader is absolutely essential. Leaders have to listen as much as they talk, and often this ability to hear the people around you is what empowers a leader to make their best decisions.

Leaders must remember that they don’t know everything, and often it’s the insight of colleagues and collaborators that can give them the big picture. This isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather of strength.

Leaders with good communication skills are able to guide others, encourage the best out of them, and speak on their behalf from a position of authority. They’re able to be more transparent and build stronger bonds of trust with their teams, especially when their communication comes with honesty and a strong sense of integrity.


Leaders should understood the authority they hold and not be too keen to wield it. As the famous and oft-repeated line from Spider Man goes: with great power comes great responsibility.

Therefore, leaders need to be self-aware and understand the limits of their power. Seeing oneself clearly through reflection, stripping away ego and other aspects that can muddy our perceptions of ourselves, is an invaluable trait for a leader. It’s what allows them to hear others, admit mistakes, and zoom out to see themselves a part of the bigger picture.

In many ways, self-awareness is a trait that underpins everything else in a leader’s toolkit.

What is leadership?

Leadership is taking the helm. It’s being willingly responsible for others and setting a standard through example.

Leadership can be found in the CEO of a company, a school teacher guiding their class, or a parent teaching their children how to move through the world with good manners and patience.

Leadership can exist almost anywhere there is need for a person to guide others that need their help.

What is management?

Management entails a certain level of administration, which is what makes it more organisation-focused than leadership in a general sense. Management is being responsible for the formal work roles of others, being a point of support with their professional development, their work environment, or when personal matters might brush up against work.

Managers can be leaders for their colleagues, but their role demands more structured and specific support than the general tag of ‘leader’.

How to become a good leader or manager?

Though there are many innate qualities that benefit leaders and managers, all of these qualities and more can be taught. Management and leadership training can be a springboard for people new to a role, or can be an essential shakeup for old school leaders who need a fresh perspective.

At Team Academy, we don’t do things by half measures and we certainly don’t do it like anybody else. We instil leaders and managers with lessons they won’t forget—lessons they learned through their own hard work, with just the right scaffolding from us.

If you’re still asking yourself ‘what is the difference between leadership and management’ and you want to find out more about our ground-breaking work with all sorts of teams, don’t hesitate. Contact us today.

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