Management or Leadership? What is the Difference?

The Basics

Putting it simply:

  • Leaders set goals and direction, challenging the norm, and seeking new ways of working towards goals;


  • Managers maintain the status quo, specialising in conformance to the standard, managing their teams and individuals, and organising, directing and controlling to achieve goals.

leadership vs management differences

Leadership produces change and movement Management produces order and consistency
 Establish Direction

  • Create a vision
  • Clarify the big picture
  • Set strategies
 Planning and Budgeting

  • Establish agendas
  • Set timetables
  • Allocate resources
Aligning People

  • Communicate goals
  • Seek commitment
  • Build teams and coalitions
 Organising and Staffing

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

  • Inspire and energise
  • Empower subordinates
  • Satisfy unmet needs
Controlling and Problem Solving

  • Develop incentives
  • Generate creative solutions
  • Take corrective action

Where it all gets complicated

However much everyone tries to label themselves either as a leader or a team leader, in reality most of us can actually be both, either at different times or at the same time. A basic example is that of a common ward round.

The consultant or registrar in charge of the ward round will need to determine a course of action to deal with every patient’s requirements; setting that vision and strategy will be leadership. The next step will require allocating a range of tasks/jobs to everyone present; that will represent management.

Both require a different set of skills.

With different responsibilities come different types of skills.

Management focuses on the logistics of getting things done. This requires:

  • Planning – Planning resource and tasks to achieve the objectives
  • Budgeting – Managing the constraints of budgets in the department / project
  • Organising – Organising support functions and resource
  • Controlling – Controlling the standards required to deliver the objectives
  • Coordinating – Coordinating and directing project tasks for achievement of goals
  • Resource use – Ensuring effective resource is used for the task at hand
  • Time management – Ensuring tasks and activities are conducted within the correct time frame
  • Decision Making – Making the right decisions in the heat of the moment
  • Problem Solving – Ensuring problems are contained and eliminated

Leadership focuses on achieving goals, keeping the team motivated and empowered to achieve as much as they can. This requires:

  • Getting the best out of each individual for the benefit of the team.
  • Leading by example, inspiring, empowerment.
  • Creating the most conducive environment for team success:
  • Vision– focusing on the long-term vision or goal
  • Motivation – Motivation and empowerment to challenge the norm
  • Inspiration – Inspiring others through merely leading and injecting enthusiasm
  • Persuasion – Using excellent leadership skills to bring people willingly along the correct path
  • Team work – Encouraging effort and commitment, and teamwork
  • Building Relationships – Building strong relationships and ensuring the team is well balanced
  • Listening – Being able to listen and get the root causes quickly and effectively
  • Counselling – Ensuring that every member of the team is motivated and effectively empowered
  • Coaching – Encouraging and giving freedom for individuals to learn and grow
  • Teaching – Leading the correct performance and expectations
  • Mentoring – Being the leader in a successful team and parting knowledge and wisdom onto the team and its individuals

Being an achiever

Ultimately, if you want to be successful in any senior post you will need to be both a good leader and a good manager. Sometimes you will have to ensure that performance is to plan. And other times, you may need to set new goals and inspire new ways of thinking.

Not taking on both roles could actually prove detrimental. Lead too much, with few standards, and you risk a rule of chaos and little discipline. Manage too much and you stifle morale by being an authoritarian manager.

If you think you’re just a manager, then chances are you are missing a load of opportunity to achieve new heights of team success. Also, if this is you, spend some time finding out what your colleagues think of you and how they feel in their roles. Chances are, they may not be that impressed.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you think you are just a leader, then there may be some things you may be missing out on, and that could be structure and systems to support the team. If you lack management skills, then you may be seen as too informal and off the hoof in decision making. You may not have a handle on the things that keep the team and business moving forward.

The bottom line is that you need to mix both up. The best leaders and managers are interchangeable. Often though, too many are either / or. They miss vital tasks to really drive team success.

Do you want to develop your Leadership and Management capabilities? Join our Leadership and Management course for doctors and healthcare professionals.

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