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The Similarities and Differences Between Leadership and Management - HRDQ

The Similarities and Differences Between Leadership and Management

Some individuals in an organization might have both management and leadership responsibilities, but that doesn't mean that these two words are interchangeable. While there are important similarities between leaders and managers, the differences are perhaps even more essential to understand.

Managers are much more likely to focus on ensuring that a company's day-to-day business gets done. At the same time, leaders use their imagination and vision to look for rewards and opportunities and fire up their team's creative process. In short, the goals of managers tend to arise out of necessities, while the goals of leaders result from an active and personal attitude of growth.

Companies need both managers and leaders to survive and thrive. The first step to ensuring that your business has highly-skilled individuals in leadership and management positions is understanding the similarities and differences between these essential roles.

What Is Leadership?

The definition of leadership is quite broad, and it's tricky to pin down one single meaning. In many cases, leadership is defined by the ability to inspire followers or employees. They can motivate workers and rally the team to reach the organization's goals.

Successful leaders positively influence those who follow them to create non-incremental change. They can do this through diligent planning, vision, and strategy.

Leaders will also help to empower their workforce and make decisions with an adaptive style.

Leadership of an Organization

In this article, we'll use the definition of leadership, which refers to the skills needed to motivate people to act based on the growth and fulfillment of the organization's mission in terms of its operations and financial well-being. Leadership requires action based on future needs. Implicit in the focus on the future is that the leader functions effectively in an environment of some uncertainty — personal, financial, marketplace, and organizational.

Leaders demonstrate their purposeful actions for others and motivate people to act based on the organization's mission. Leadership requires action based on the company's future needs, and they must focus on goals and long-term growth.

Leadership demands an emphasis on a set of competencies based on guidance. The leader needs the skills to: 

  • Communicate Organization Direction. The leader should understand the organization's landscape and drive the organization to achieve an overarching objective.
  • Develop Key Relationships. The leader should determine all individuals who have a critical role in the business success of the organization, and they should acknowledge their roles.
  • Inspire Others. The leader should establish immediate credibility with the key parties identified above and inspire them to have a commitment to their peers, the organization, and its clients.

Identify and improve your leadership style with this assessment: What's My Leadership Style

What Is Management?

On the other hand, management is much more focused on dealing with an organization's operational side than inspiring and rallying team members. Their roles typically include administrative duties rather than only encapsulating broader concepts like empowerment, team building, and motivation.

It is the job of management to keep a business operating by focusing on:

  • Setting timelines for goals and strategies.
  • Upholding the structure of the organization.
  • Budgeting and planning.
  • Establishing policies and procedures.
  • Recruiting and employee management.

Managers are typically more task-oriented than leaders, while leaders are often oriented towards a higher level of thinking and planning. Managers assist leaders in turning concepts and ideas into concrete outcomes and tangible objectives.

Managing a Team of Employees

Management is defined as the skills needed to motivate people to act based on the performance of the organization, both in terms of its operations and financial well-being. It requires action based on present needs. Implicit with the focus on the present is that the manager functions effectively in an environment of some certainty — personal, financial, marketplace, and organizational.

Management demands an emphasis on a set of competencies based on administration. The manager needs the skills to:

  • Direct Operations. The manager should implement the support mechanisms that allow the organization and its staff to move forward in fulfilling growth targets.
  • Develop the Organization. The manager should set in motion all the people skills required of the team, including their competencies, roles, responsibilities, and task definitions.
  • Reinforce Performance. The manager should provide personal feedback that employees need to understand their performance in the wider context of the team and company.

An impactful tool thousands of trainers have used for supervisor skills training: Supervisory Skills Questionnaire

What Are the Similarities Between Leadership and Management?

Both leaders and managers are necessary for a business to thrive, and there are many similarities between these two roles. Though they might focus on different aspects of operating a successful organization, they each need specific skills to relate to and manage teams.

Mindfulness and a Growth-Oriented Mindset

Growth Oriented Leader

The best leaders and managers understand the importance of incorporating mindfulness into their roles. When individuals in these positions are self-aware and mindful, they can continuously hone their skills to become the best leader or manager they can be. Having a growth-oriented mindset is essential, as opposed to a fixed mindset, as it means they are interested in finding their weak spots and continuing to improve over time.


Both leaders and managers must simultaneously maintain a level of humility while also understanding their importance in the organization's success. There is a fine line between staying humble and arrogant, and the best managers and leaders work to maintain the proper position between these two extremes.

The reason that it's important to strike this delicate balance is due to the impact that a leader or manager's attitude influences how much trust their team has in them.

Leader Expressing Humility

For example, an overly confident leader or manager will likely become resented by their team, particularly if their arrogance doesn't seem to match with the company's success. Even if they seem to have a good reason for how highly they think of themselves, teams under arrogant leadership or management tend to suffer in performance and lack psychological safety. This is partly due to how overly-confident people tend to diminish, alienate, and disengage from the people they are charged with leading or managing.

At the same time, a leader or manager so focused on staying humble that they come off as timid and lacking confidence in their decisions likely won't receive the trust of their team.


It's also essential for both leaders and managers to maintain consistency between their words and their actions. In both roles, individuals are tasked with helping to provide clarity for the team and organization as a whole.

Leader Maintaining Organizational Consistency

On the one hand, leaders must maintain consistency in terms of the goals they are focused on reaching for the organization as a whole. On the other hand, managers must be consistent in their expectations of their team and their application of policies and procedures.


Leader Being Transparent With Employee

Transparency is vital to trust, and the best leaders and managers are well-aware of that fact. This means that individuals in both roles must be willing to communicate honestly with their employees, even if this means admitting when they don't know the answer to a question or owning up to having made a mistake.


Trust is the foundation of any relationship, and the relationship between employees, managers, and leaders is no exception. Workers must trust people in leadership and management positions and feel trusted by people higher up in the organization.

Trust Between Leader and Employee

A foundation of trust is essential in a leader's effort to motivate, empower, and inspire their teams. In a manager's effort to uphold organization structure, trust is necessary to ensure that their employees don't start to disengage from their tasks and their loyalty to the brand. Without trust, organizations fall apart.

Emotional Intelligence

An individual's emotional intelligence is their ability to pinpoint, understand, and manage their own emotions and their ability to understand the emotions of other people they interact with. Emotional intelligence is essential in the workplace, but it's particularly vital for leaders and managers.

This is because management and leadership require interacting with and impacting other people's actions. A leader or manager that lacks emotional intelligence will struggle to pick up on queues from their team that they are getting burned out, for example, or won't notice that one of their employees is eager to take on more responsibility.

Emotionally Intelligent Leader

At the same time, teams will be well aware of a deficiency in the emotional intelligence of both leaders and managers. This can reduce the amount of trust they have and mean that they disengage from their tasks and the organization as a whole.

Identify and effectively combine both leadership and management skills with this tool: Leader Manager Profile

Other Similarities Between Leaders and Managers

Manager Overseeing a Team

In addition to these essential skills, there are several important similarities between both leaders and managers, including:

  • They both work to unlock the full potential of their teams and employees.
  • They both focus primarily on improving the organization.
  • They both communicate policies and changes in the company.
  • They both get involved in an organization's day-to-day activities.
  • In some cases, they require the same level of education and skills.
  • They both act as role models in different capacities.
  • They both work to set the strategies and future needs of the company.

What Are the Differences Between Leadership and Management?

Now that we've gone over the similarities between leadership and management, let's examine some key differences between these roles.

Definitional Differences

Manager Working With Employee

While managers can undoubtedly be leaders and vice versa, one of the primary differences is that leaders aim to inspire and motivate while managers organize, plan, coordinate, oversee, and implement.

Personality Styles

Managers tend to be problem solvers that are rational and steady-handed. They are focused on things like the availability of resources, structures, goals, and personnel. This means their personality tends to be more analyzing, strong-willed, persistent, and intelligent.

Charismatic Personality Style

On the other hand, leaders tend to be more charismatic in relation to their followers though they may be relatively private outside the workplace. They are highly creative, imaginative, and often more comfortable taking risks than managers.

Focus and Orientation

Managers tend to be more task-oriented, while leaders tend to be more people-oriented. That being said, both roles require that individuals are capable in both orientations for an organization to succeed.

Manager Focused on a Task

Similarly, managers are more focused on managing work, while leaders are more focused on leading people.


Leader Assessing Risks

Typically, managers are more risk-averse, and leaders are more risk-tolerant. Leaders are willing to jump off the edge of a cliff, metaphorically, if they believe it can help the organization succeed, while managers are more likely to play it safe and go by the books.

Approach to Tasks

Managers and leaders also tend to approach tasks differently.

When leaders approach a task, they help facilitate others to solve problems using their commitment and charisma. When they look at an issue, they work to create creative, new solutions.

Team Approaching a Task

Conversely, managers empower people to solve problems by soliciting their principles, values, and views. They tend to stick with time-tested methods rather than going off the beaten path when delegating task methods or taking on tasks on their own.

Leadership Styles

There are also some significant differences between the leadership styles of leaders and managers.

Leading a Team of Employees

Managers tend to fall within one (or several) of the following styles:

  • Authoritative
  • Consultative
  • Dictatorial
  • Transactional
  • Democratic
  • Autocratic

On the other hand, leaders tend to be more participative, transformational, or consultative.


Leader Appealing to Employee

One straightforward way to understand the primary differences between leaders and managers is the part of an individual they appeal to. While managers appeal to the head, leaders appeal to the heart. Managers work to motivate teams to accomplish specific, objective tasks, while leaders touch upon a more ephemeral aspect of success that involves inspiration, motivation, and empowerment.

How to Develop Leadership and Management Skills

Skilled Organization Leader

You can develop your leadership and management skills with HRDQ's Leader-Manager Profile. This 36-item assessment shows supervisors how their competence as both a manager and a leader can contribute to meeting the demands of the marketplace. Upon completing the course, you will be able to clarify the differences between leading and managing, pinpoint the skills needed to be effective in each role, and understand how to balance and improve both skill sets.

Do you or your organization have any questions about the similarities or differences between leadership and management? If so, be sure to leave a comment down below, and we'll get back to you within a day or two! We always make it a point to reply to every comment or question we receive, and we'd love to assist you however possible!

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