Leadership and Management, Do You Know the Difference?

The difference in leadership and management is this: Leaders lead, and managers manage.

Let me paint a picture for you: You are a leader. How do you imagine yourself in that position?

You’re standing in front of a group, and they’re looking at you to guide them toward something. The thing is unknown and scary, but you’re in control (humbly, of course), and people trust you to lead them to where they desire.

It’s a desire, a vision, that you’ve created for them as individuals and as a whole. You’re an inspirational and motivational guide that’s making everyone feel safe despite being afraid. You’re kind, trustworthy, and people depend on you to lead them.

Let’s paint another picture: You’re a manager, not a literal one that works in an office, but just in general.

You’re in the crowd that we just talked about. You’re staring up at the leader, and nodding along to everything they’re saying because you agree. Yes, we can get there, you think.

The problem is that even though the leader knows what they want, they need someone to think short-term and help them figure out exact steps. They need someone to directly tell people what to do and assign jobs to reach the goal.

This is where you, the manager, come in. While people are depending on the leader to lead them to the destination, they’re depending on you to give them the steps on how to get there exactly. A leader uses their manager’s steps.

The leader is the guide, and the manager is the compass.

That’s the difference between leadership and management. It’s all about communication, and they way you position yourself to do so.

Leadership and communication go together. A leader will use words of encouragement, be more of a coach, and remind you of what the goal is. A manager will be more analytical and tell you exactly what needs to get done, and what’s at stake if you don’t do that thing.

To clarify, neither position is a bad thing, both are needed to reach a goal. You can’t succeed simply by having a good relationship with everyone, you need to put in the work, too. On the flip side, you can’t succeed simply by having a system, you need leadership and guidance, someone to think of the big picture.

You have to mix both so that you can actually move toward something. It’s useless to clash because of different points of views. The point is that leadership and management want to help people—they just have different ways of showing it.

For example, a leader may be seen as naive to a manager because they’re willing to take risks that won’t lead them to a sure place, but a leader may view management as narrow-minded for wanting to stay in the safe zone that won’t take them anywhere at all.

Leadership and management need to meet in the middle and find a place that they both think is smart and worthy. Although, that doesn’t mean that sometimes a leader isn’t right, or that the management’s plan is better.