Leadership vs. Management – What’s the Difference?

Leadership – the quality of influencing people to achieve specific long term goals. Management – the discipline of overseeing and organizing day-to-day operations.

For a business to be successful there needs to be both leadership and management. Neither competency is superior or inferior to the other; they are different but both are needed to organize, direct, and inspire a group of people.

As a business owner trying to get organized, hire a leadership team including a manager, and figure out the structure of your business, you may find yourself asking: Leadership vs. Management – What’s the difference?

Read on to learn specifics about each and the different roles they play within an organization like yours!

Leadership in the Workplace

The backbone of leadership in the workplace is trust. Once trust is developed among your team, your team members will feel safe, supported, and the desire to work hard for your business.

They will see and feel the shared success as individuals, as a team, and as a larger organization. The leadership skills needed to develop trust come from:

  • Leading by example
  • Inspiring others
  • Being a positive encourager
  • Having a vision and communicating that to others

Leadership qualities are often not able to be taught. Some people have them and others just simply do not.

If someone is a natural-born leader, those leadership skills can be fine-tuned over time to turn those leaders into even more effective leaders.

Your task as the business owner is to examine your leadership team and ask yourself, do these people have the leadership traits needed to be or become successful leaders?

If the answer is no, then they do not have a place in your leadership team.

Management in the Workplace

When you think about the word management, what comes to mind? A manager is often thought of as the highest-ranking person within a business other than the owner but that is often not the case.

An office manager can and many times should be part of a leadership team, but not the highest person within that team.

Operations management is about managing budgets, programs, contracts, projects, ensuring policies and procedures are followed, and instilling an environment of stability within a company. But is this person leading and inspiring team members to feel safe, supported, and do good work for a company? Often this operations management role is seen as policing the business, and rightfully so!

This management role is needed for a company to have structure and organization. However, team management is about so much more than simply making sure everyone is following the rules and regulations. 

The best-run businesses have both managers and leaders working together in a system of checks and balances.

How to achieve this symbiotic relationship is often where businesses struggle and business coaching services really help identify placing the right people in the right seats within an organization, getting everyone on the same page, and opening the channels of communication between team members.

Differences Between Leadership and Management

Leadership and business management may seem inseparable in nature when you first think about the two qualities.

A manager of people needs to have some leadership skills to be able to do their job effectively. A leader of people is in many ways managing those people.

Yet, when examined closer you see the differences between the two start to emerge. Here is a helpful breakdown of the differences between leadership and business management:

  • Leadership is about leading people through positive encouragement, whereas management is about overseeing the day-to-day operations of a business. 
  • Leadership is the skill of earning trust to influence and encourage others whereas operations management is about instruction and execution.
  • Leadership requires long-term vision, whereas management tends to be shorter-term vision and more day-to-day operations focused. 
  • Leadership is about cultivating guiding principles and core values, whereas management is about the implementation of policies and procedures. 
  • Leadership brings long term change and growth to a business, whereas management is the backbone of stability. 

As you can see, both are needed to work together for a business to be successful in the short and long term.

Too much of one quality can cause an organization to fall out of balance. In many ways, stable management skills keep the long term vision leaders in check and vice versa.


At Leader’s Cut, I help business owners cultivate their leadership team through business coaching.

The Ken Kilday executive coaching experience is about self-discovery as a business owner and organization where we dig deep to gain clarity and then take action. Figuring out as much as possible about each team member on your leadership team to make sure they are in the right seat within your business is crucial for short and long term success.

Are you wondering how business coaching works and if I am the right fit for you and your business? Contact me for a 15-minute “meet and greet” so we can learn about each other and explore how Leader’s Cut can help you get after your business goals in 2021 and beyond!


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