What is the difference between leadership and management?

What is the difference between leadership and management? | Arc Integrated

If you’re a good manager, does that mean that you’re automatically a good leader? What is the difference between leadership and management? You may think they’re both the same, and more or less, you’re right! But let’s unpack this difference a bit and talk about where the confusion comes from. They both show their differences in certain situations. There are some managers who do not practice leadership, and there are some people who lead without a managerial role. 

Today, we’re going to break down the main difference between leadership and management. If you’re interested in learning more about it, then keep on reading!

What is a manager? 

A manager is someone who is selected or appointed within an organization. It is a role where candidates are selected depending on certain technical skills, expertise, and knowledge.  In many industries and in many companies from all parts of the world – people are promoted to management due to a skill set in their position, tenure, relationship influence, or company politics – not leadership skills.  These reasons for promotion to leadership often result in negative consequences.  Having a role of a manager does not mean you have the skill sets as a leader. 

“Managers light a fire under people. Leaders light a fire in people.” – Kathy Austin

It’s very important that all those in management positions have skills (or get training in) appropriate leadership principles.  Organizations need good leaders to drive the organization to achieve the mission and vision the organization has set out for itself.

Leaders vs Managers

As we’ve already pointed out, when it comes to setting and executing an organization’s mission and vision, the managers need to be leaders.

Leaders are the ones who promote the vision of where they want their organization to be in the future and for ensuring that the behaviors in the organization reflect the mission, vision, and values.  In this respect, we are all leaders because we are always modeling some kind of behavior – for better or for worse.  

So why all the confusion between leaders and managers?   Well, at some point in the general conversation about roles within an organization, there was a break between leadership and management.  This separation is further perpetuated by the common practice I mentioned earlier – people get promoted to leadership positions because they are good at their job, not because they are skilled leaders.  This dynamic drives the idea that there can be a good manager but that person isn’t a leader.  It’s a silly separation if you think about it.  Putting someone in a managerial role automatically holds some perception of authority (for the person in the position as well as other employees).  The question of course then becomes – Why wouldn’t the person in the managerial position be a leader? There isn’t a good answer here. Anyone having authority should have leadership skills.  In addition, whether you are leading people or not, you can still practice leadership.  More on key traits that make good leaders in a bit.  

To put it succinctly, the quote from Fred Kofman, author of Conscious Business, says it best: 

“Asking if someone is a leader or a manager is like asking if someone is a soccer player or a ball kicker. Leadership is a necessary skill for anyone who manages.” – Fred Kofman  

To separate the titles of “manager” and “leader” really just causes more confusion than anything else.  

The question from here may be – If anyone can lead and all managers should have leadership skills, then what types of skill sets, traits and characteristics are we talking about? 

Leaders are constantly looking for new ways to drive change within an organization. Leaders work to inspire positive change by empowering employees to work together towards a common goal.  One of the most powerful tools a leader can have is effective communication. Check out this post for a deeper dive into communication and what is truly at risk if communication goes awry. 

Leaders are often thought of as the ones with the power to inspire people, but being inspirational is just a characteristic, which anyone can take advantage of.  Again, more evidence that regardless of how many people we may manage, we can all take on roles of leadership. 

In addition to great communication skills and being inspirational, It’s important for leaders to develop personal leadership styles through self-reflection and feedback. These two practices alone offer game-changing results if implemented.  If you are interested in implementing either of these, here a couple of examples: 

  • Self-Reflection – Take 5 minutes at the beginning or end of your day to journal on lessons learned, gratitudes, commitments for the following day as well as setting intentions for your longer-term leadership goals. If you enjoy prompts for writing, I recommend The Five Minute Journal.
  • Feedback – Capture a series of questions you’d like to get some feedback on related to your leadership.  Send these questions out to 6-12 people in your circle and see what themes come up.  If you’re looking for a fun tool to capture answers as well as platform user friendly, I recommend Type Form.  After you create your questions, you have essentially created a DIY 360 Feedback tool.  For a more robust 360 tool (specific to Emotional Intelligence and leadership) contact us for a free consultation and we can give you the details. 

In addition to the two characteristics mentioned above, here are a few other key traits: 

Key traits that make a strong leader:

  • Honesty and integrity
  • Vision
  • Inspiration
  • Ability to challenge
  • Communication skills 
  • Empathy
  • Strong boundaries
  • Coachability 
  • Ability to coach 
  • Adaptability
  • Confidence 
  • Curiosity 
  • Delegation 
  • Negotiation 

Every action, interaction, choice, and communication shapes company culture, in this sense, we are all leaders. 

A culture within a company can be defined as a set of shared values, goals, attitudes, and practices that characterize an organization. Culture is always fluid, meaning it is always being influenced and shaped by the people within it.  This is good news because this means that anyone can be a leader within a company by supporting and driving the values, mission, and vision of the company through their daily behaviors. 

A great leader embraces the responsibility to advocate the company’s core values and beliefs through their actions, communication, and decisions. 

This is where your skills and leadership styles greatly impact how employees take and lift that culture.  In order for employees to live by the company’s cultures and core values, it is crucial for both leaders and managers to collaborate.

As we’ve mentioned throughout this blog post, it’s so important for anyone in a managerial position to have leadership skills.   In addition, anyone in a company can wear the hat of a leader.   If you feel that you are missing certain traits to be a strong leader or you are looking to improve your skills, we have the resources to help you create effective change within yourself and your organization.

As always, schedule a time to connect if you have any questions.

Be well,



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