Differences Between Management and Leadership

For an organization or program to succeed it needs both good managers and good leaders. A good manager may also be a great leader, and a leader may also be a good manager, but the two do not necessarily always go hand-in-hand. In many organizations, managers may focus on ensuring that within the organization their employees or projects have structure, schedule, resources, and knowledge of policies/procedures to accomplish specific goals. A leader may focus on the larger picture or vision for a project or organization, ensuring motivation and inspiring team members.

In a very simplified way, a good manager is someone who does things right and a leader is someone who does the right thing.

People may define the differences between managers and leaders in varied ways and might argue that these two roles don’t overlap at all or overlap a lot, that individuals who do these jobs have different types of personalities, or that a manager accomplishes activities while leaders influence others and have a vision. However you think about the distinction between managers and leaders, an organization needs both to succeed.

Functions of Management and Leadership

Order and Consistency

Change and Movement


  • Establish agenda
  • Set schedule
  • Allocate resources

Establishing Direction

  • Create vision
  • Clarify the big picture
  • Set strategies


  • Provide structure
  • Make job placements
  • Establish rules and procedures

Aligning People

  • Communicate goals
  • See commitment
  • Build teams and coalitions

Controlling/Problem Solving

  • Develop incentives
  • Generate creative solutions
  • Take corrective action

Motivating and Inspiring

  • Inspire and energize
  • Empower subordinates
  • Satisfy unmet needs

Adapted from: Kotter, John R. (1990). A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management. New York: Free Press. In Northouse, Peter G. (2004). Leadership Theory and Practice. California: Sage Publications.

  What happens if you have

Strong management and weak leadership can lead to an overly bureaucratic organization. Strong leadership with weak management can cause an organization to drift without meeting the desired goals.