Leadership and Management: Significant Differences


The concepts of leadership and management are fundamental to the successful running of an organization. Leadership is viewed as an important concept when it comes to influencing people while management is also seen as important since it involves the planning, organizing, coordinating, and controlling of people’s activities within an organization. Scholars have argued that these two concepts have similar and distinct qualities that are essential when it comes to leading or managing an organization. Bush (2003) has argued that people in positions of authority need to have leadership and managerial skills to effectively run the organization because a manager has to be seen as a leader and a leader has to be viewed as a manager at some point when carrying out his work. Leadership and management are therefore concepts that can be similar or dissimilar, depending on the context or organization in which they are being used.

Definition: Leadership and Management

Leadership is defined as the art of influencing willing people to perform or follow a certain direction that is set out by the leader. Leadership requires that there should be a clear vision and followers who are ready to realize the vision (Gold et al. 2008). Since it requires collaborating and working together with other people, the leader has to have good communication skills, good interpersonal skills, and knowledge about the nature of human beings (Leitner, 2004). Management is the process that involves a manager planning, organizing, directing, and organizing the activities of an organization by utilizing its resources effectively to achieve the set-out goals or objectives within a minimum cost while at the same time providing the organization with an opportunity to achieve maximum profits (Lorenzana, 1993).

Research on the Difference between Leadership and Management

Distinctions made by Dubrin (2010) are that management produces an environment that is orderly, consistent, and predictable while leadership produces an environment that is designed for change, creativity, innovation, and adaptability. Management involves ensuring that the vision of the company is attainable by the employees of the company while leadership involves coming up with a vision that other people will follow and implement. Leadership is seen to produce change while management is seen to produce a large degree of predictability and order (Letchfield, 2008).

Researchers have argued that leadership and management are distinct constructs. Bennis and Nanus in their 1985 research (as cited by Northouse, 2010) noted that there was a significant difference between leadership and management. They noted that the concept of management entails accomplishing organizational activities and leadership involves influencing other people within the organization and creating visions that will effect change. Bennis and Nanus made the distinction between managers and leaders by stating that managers were individuals in an organization who did things right while leaders were people who did the right thing (Northouse, 2010, p.11).

Rost (1991, Northouse, 2010) made the observation that leadership influenced a multidirectional relationship concerned with developing a mutual purpose while management was a unidirectional authority relationship that was focused on coordinating activities to ensure that tasks are completed. He noted that leaders and their followers worked together to create change while managers and their employees worked together to sell the organization’s goods and services.

Zaleznik (1977, Northouse 2010) also contributed by arguing that the main players; leaders and managers, were themselves distinct. He referred to the fact that people are different and possess different personalities and characteristics. According to Zaleznik, managers reacted to situations with low involvement and preferred to work with employees who were problem solvers while leaders were emotionally active and involved in the process of generating ideas and expanding available solutions to deal with problems (Northouse, 2010).

Even though there is a clear difference between leadership and management as noted by Zaleznik, Rost, Bennis, and Nanus, both concepts overlap at some point during the activities of an organization. For example, when managers influence employees to achieve organizational objectives, they are involved in leadership activities. In another case, when leaders are involved in activities that entail planning, organizing, coordinating, and controlling, they are said to be involved in managerial activities. Such examples prove that both leadership and management involve influencing groups of people to achieve individual or collective goals within an organization (Northouse, 2010).


In summary, leadership and management are concepts that are geared towards ensuring that an organization achieves its visions, goals, and objectives. While researchers have noted distinctions, people in authority might be forced by situations to exercise both leadership and management at the same time. They might have similar or dissimilar characteristics but at some point during their work, a leader is going to undertake managerial roles and a manager is going to take up a leadership role.


Bush, T. (2003) Theories of educational leadership and management. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Dubrin, A.J. (2010) Leadership: research findings, practice, and skills. 6th Edition. United States: Cengage Learning.

Gold, J., Thorpe, R., and Mumford, A. (2010) Gower handbook of leadership and management development. England: Gower Publishing Ltd.

Leitner, A. (2004) Concept of leadership and management within the manufacturing industry. Germany: GRIN Verlag.

Letchfield, T.H., Leonard, K., Chick, N.F., and Begum, N. (2008) Leadership and management in social care. London: SAGE Publications.

Lorenzana, C. C. (1993) Management: theory and practice. Florentino: Rex Printing Company. P.4.

Northouse, P.G. (2010) Leadership: theory and practice. 5th Edition. California, US: SAGE Publications. P.11.

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