Why Leadership Is Different to Management — These 5 Critical Ways

Girl with a note proclaiming "Be Different!"

Leadership Is Different to Management

Let me state the obvious. Leadership is different to management.

Both are needed to drive team performance.

Both are essential for teams to reach their full potential.

So it makes sense to understand the difference between leadership and management. Right?

Stick with me and I will explain why they are different. I’ll also spell out what you need to do to set yourself apart from other team managers.

Why Leadership Is Different to Management

But first, understand this: leadership is not a replacement for management. Nor is it better than management.

Management and leadership complement one another. As a matter of fact, management and leadership are as distinct as certainty and uncertainty.

Indeed, this is how we should view them:

Management is déjà vu whereas leadership is vu jàdé.

Read on and I’ll explain …

The Difference Between Leadership and Management

According to some of the best names in management studies the team manager is interested in five basic activities. These are:

  1. Setting objectives — Setting goals for the team and deciding what is done to achieve those goals.
  2. Organising people — Dividing the work into manageable chunks and choosing the best people to do the work.
  3. Motivating and communicating —  Communicating the goals and motivating the team to work effectively to accomplish those tasks.
  4. Measuring performance — Setting relevant targets, analysing and interpreting team performance.
  5. Developing people — Developing capability within the team.

One thing that is beyond doubt about these activities is certainty. They are familiar and you will do them periodically, without exception. You’ll also have a pretty good idea how to do each task.

Now that you know the basics of team management, let’s take a closer look at leading teams.

What Is Leadership?

It’s a good question. And believe it or not, there are many answers! (If you’re interested, read Definition of Leadership.)

However, the purpose of this text is to highlight five critical ways leadership is different to management. And to do this you first need to consider the role of leadership in teams.

Quite simply, leadership is the part the manager plays in:

And what do these responsibilities have in common?

In every respect, there is uncertainty. Leadership deals in the unknown. Leadership is about making a future — your future — more likely.

The team leader must initiate change, which means bringing people together into a team, to work toward a shared vision and a common goal.

And the key to leading teams is doing something different. Do these 5 critical things and I promise you will see a positive change for you, your team and your business.

1. Focus on the team’s goals

What are you trying to do? If it is important it has to be linked to a goal. If not, why are you doing it?

You need a goal.

So … focus on clearly defining an achievable — doable — goal and set the priority of that goal. This should drive action. It is your raison d’être.

2. Break down barriers

You cannot achieve your goal alone.

You need a team!

So … bring the team together for a common cause. Ask the team to go on to deliver the goal. And allow the team to express reservations and opinions.

This is the natural process of braking down barriers and inhibitions between team members. It is the only path to understanding and agreement.

3. Build a consensus between managers

You need allies.

So … create strong interpersonal ties with managers. Find common ground — a strategic goal — to stimulate open discussion and attract interest in what you are doing.

Then agree mutually acceptable roles and responsibilities between managers to bring about coordinated effort.

4. Enlist senior management support

You need authority.

So … encourage senior management to publicly support your goal. Persuade them. Tell them what’s in it for them. Show them how your goal aligns with their goal.

5. Network with influential managers

You need influence.

So … network with influential managers to make sure progress is made. Seek proactive support for the goal by promoting and communicating your hard earned senior management support. Learn to influence people and move them to action.

Finally, remember to balance leadership and management action. Above all, involve the team in discussion about their roles and responsibilities and how it will achieve its goals.

Want to know more about leading teams?

Great. But can I ask what you’ve been doing up to date?

Creative Commons image courtesy Melissa Petrie.

Last updated 20 June, 2015 4 CommentsShare the knowledge …


  1. zahoor says

    A good article/ input on the subject. I may be wrong however in today’s mixed society of people working together as team in maybe multinational companies, there is need to study an individual also. An individual’s background, its society where he has grown up, and the education has a direct bearing on his work output. If you have known the pulse of a man by which he is driven/ sensitive to, in my opinion, the manager has done his job. This is the leadership that can find the pulse and pull the string. Sorry, if you disagree these lines.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *