“The Future Depends on What You Do Today”

How do I lead myself and others: Management vs Leadership

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Peter Drucker

In this last edition of my series about leadership I would like to explore what the differences are between management and leadership. Although this topic has been explored by many, it still remains a challenge in most organisations. Often these terms are used interchangeably however, they do mean very different things.

I would like to focus on five key differences between leaders and managers:

  1. Leaders are visionary while managers are goal orientated

As noted in my March blog, leaders have a vision of where they would like to take their team and organisation. A manager takes this vision, create goals and supports the team in reaching those goals. A vision without goals will remain just that: a vision. Managers are thus instrumental in making the vision reality. That means that both leaders and managers are instrumental to the success of any organisation and the one is not necessarily better than the other.

  1. Leaders innovate and managers maintain

Innovation is paramount in the success of any organisation. It is only organisations that can create new products or service lines that manage to survive the test of time. Managers maintain processes and in doing so, allow for leaders to be innovative without worrying about the current products, services, resources and processes. In fact, managers allow for leaders to have the time to be innovative and forward-looking.

  1. Leaders inspire and motivate, while managers plan, organise and coordinate

Managers keep them busy with the various activities that are required to meet certain goals. In doing so they have to plan resources, organise all the processes and actions and coordinate resources to achieve those goals. Goals could include: meeting certain deadlines, reporting on information, managing a project, etc. They plan for potential problems and monitor the progress. Leaders, on the other hand, are more focused on inspiring and motivating people to reach the overall vision. They leave the day-to-day processes and management thereof to the managers.

  1. Leaders take risks, while managers control risk

Leaders are willing to try new things even if they may fail. Leaders know that failure is most often a step on the path to success and are not less bothered by failure. Managers have the task to minimise the risk. They seek to control problems and build processes to manage risks effectively.

  1. Leaders coach while managers direct

Leaders assume and know that people who work for them have the answers or are able to find those answers. They assume that their people as competent and will live out their true potential. As a result, they do not tell their people what to do and how to do it. This task they leave to the managers who will assign tasks and provide guidance on how to accomplish them.

Herewith some questions you can ask yourself to establish whether you are a leader or a manager:

* Do you administrate processes or innovate new ones? Leaders innovate.

* Are your ideas original or are you maintaining existing processes and aim and making those more effective and efficient? Leaders focus on new and original ideas.

* Is your focus primarily on systems and structure or on people? Managers are appointed to focus primary on systems and structure.

* Do you have a short-range or long-range view? Leaders have a long-range view.

* Do you ask how and when, or what and why questions? Managers are focused on how and when.

* Is your eye primarily on the bottom line or on the horizon? Managers focus on the bottom line.

* Do you accept the status quo or do you challenge it? Leaders challenge the status quo.

* Are you transactional in your approach or transformational? Leaders are transformational.

* Do you focus on doing things right or doing the right thing? Managers focus on doing things right.

* Do you avoid conflict or see it as an asset? Managers ordinarily avoid conflict.


It is safe to say that leadership and management should go hand-in-hand. Both roles are required to make an organisation successful. If you want to get the best out of your team, you cannot only manage them, but also have to lead them.

Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. Stephen Covey