Leadership and management are two inescapable facts of our daily lives. Almost every entity – from political formations, to football clubs, to organizations and companies – has people at the helm who are supposed to provide strategic direction and guidance. The question that remains unanswered for most people is whether these individuals should be referred to as managers or leaders. It is important to note that the debate on whether there is any difference between leadership and management has been on for a long period of time. While there are those who believe that leadership and management are distinct, others hold the point of view that these two concepts overlap. Also, there are who are of the opinion that the two terms are in essence synonymous. Some of those who deem the two concepts as being distinct from each other are of the opinion that leadership and management are mutually exclusive, in that a competent manager cannot make a good leader, and vice versa.

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It would be easy to refer to all managers as leaders. However, the question that one could ask is whether leadership is exercised by all managers. Also, it should be noted that there are individuals in positions of leadership despite having no management roles and duties. Given that the two terms continue to be used interchangeably in some settings, there is need to determine whether there exists any difference between leadership and management. This is more so the case given the need to better understand the nature of the two concepts with an aim of finding out how best leadership and/or management skills can be natured and further enhanced. In today’s dynamic world, and given the vigorous nature of modern workplaces, there is need to determine what exactly constitutes leadership and/or management and how exactly leaders and/or managers fit in the said settings. In that regard, therefore, the relevance of highlighting the differences (if any) between leadership and management cannot be overstated.

Research Question

Is there any difference between leadership and management? Over time, the terms leadership and management have been used synonymously. However, there are those who are of the opinion that the two are inherently distinct. There is need to determine whether the two concepts share roles, duties, and mandates. Also, in an attempt to find out whether (and how) the two concepts are connected, the unique functions as well as activities of both ought to be highlighted.

A Review of Literature

In seeking to highlight differences between leadership and management, there is need to define the terms separately so as to determine whether they converge or intersect by way of definition. Various definitions of leadership have been offered over time. As a matter of fact, it has often been said that the existing definitions of leadership out there are as many as the persons who have defined the term in the past. According to Kellerman (as cited in Rost, 1993), “leadership is the process by which one individual consistently exerts more impact than others on the nature and direction of group activity” (p. 72). This definition of leadership, as Rost (1993) points out is largely focused on the viewpoint of “do-as-the-leader’s-wishes” (p. 72). One key aspect of this particular definition is consistency. A person who influences the course and conduct of a given group for a short period of time and then loses that influence, cannot be regarded a true leader as per this definition. A group in this case could be made up of an infinite number of people and its mandate could vary widely. Those who fit the definition of leadership as per Kellerman’s definition include, but they are not limited to, religious leaders (such as the Pope – the leader of the Catholic Church) and political leaders (such as Vladimir Putin – the current president of Russia).

Yet another person who has attempted to define leadership is Gardner. According to Gardner (as cited in Rost, 1993), “leadership is the process of persuasion or example by which an individual (or leadership team) induces a group to pursue objectives held by the leader or shared by the leader and his or her followers” (p. 72). The defining aspect of this definition is that a leader need not necessarily be an individual. A ‘leader’ could comprise of a team of people exerting influence over an even larger group of people. The author also identifies two key ingredients of leadership – i.e. example and persuasion. What this, in essence, means is that a leader has to not only be persuasive so as to win the confidence of his or her followers, by he or she has to lead by example as well. This effectively means leaders should lead from the front. Also, as per Gardner’s definition, the objectives pursued could either be shared or held by the leader only, with the leader in the latter case persuading his followers to adopt the very same opinions or viewpoints.

Others who have attempted to give meaning to the term leader and/or leadership include, but that are not limited to Northouse (a university professor) and Nahavandi (a well-known author of leadership texts). A leader, according to Nahavandi (as cited in Ricketts and Ricketts, 2010), is “any person who influences individuals and groups within an organization, helps them in the establishment of goals, and guides them toward the achievement of those goals, thereby allowing them to be effective” (p. 5). Northouse (as cited in Ricketts and Ricketts. 2010), on the other hand, is of the opinion that leadership is a process occasioned by the influence of a group by an individual. The said influence could be towards the accomplishment of a specific objective.

A review of the various definitions of leadership that have been offered over time would not be complete without highlighting the definition of leadership as outlined in Stogdill’s leadership handbook. Bertocci (2009) points out that the said handbook is widely accepted as an authority on matters leadership. Leadership, according to Stogdill (as cited in Bertocci, 2009), “occurs when one group member modifies the motivation or competencies of others in the group” (p. 5). In that regard, therefore, leadership is not necessarily elective, i.e. a person could assume the position of leadership in a group setting without being expressly elected as group leader. Towards that end, Stogdill (as cited in Bertocci, 2009) is of the opinion that “leaders are agents of change, persons whose acts affect other people more than other people’s acts affect them” (p. 5). It is, therefore, clear that leaders often possess some innate leadership skills and capabilities that make other people submit to their viewpoints. By referring to leaders as agents of change, Stogdill acknowledges that by virtue of the influence they have over other persons, leaders often bring about change, with the said change being either positive or negative. This definition of leadership also seems to assert the relevance of persuasion in the leadership equation. As Bertocci observes, Stogdill’s definition puts great emphasis on the ability of a leader to influence the behavior of others. Persuasion is a skill that comes in handy in seeking to influence the behavior of other people.

It is important to note that as it has been pointed out elsewhere in this text, there are many definitions of leadership that have been proposed over time. As Rickets and Rickets (2010) note, over the past seven decades, more than three hundred and fifty leadership definitions have been offered. With that said, from the leadership definitions offered above, it is easy to identify some key leadership characteristics and attributes. These will come in handy in seeking to find out if any differences exist between leadership and management, and if so, what is the nature and form of those differences.

Now that various definitions of leadership have been offered, it would be prudent to take into consideration some of the definitions that have been presented by various authors and management experts for the term ‘management.’ Management, according to Armstrong and Stephens (2005) “is about deciding what to do and then getting it done through people” (p. 3). As the authors further point, as per their definition, people happen to be a key resource for management to take place. As a matter of fact, all the other resources, as Armstrong and Stephens (2005) observe, out are managed through people. Given that the overall resource management is entrusted to managers, the authors propose yet another definition of management – one that takes into consideration the ultimate accountability of managers as far as resource management is concerned. They, thus, state that management has got to do with “deciding what to do and then getting it done through the effective use of resources” (Armstrong and Stephens, 2005, p. 3).

Appley (as cited in Murugan, 2008) is of the opinion that “management consists in guiding human and physical resources into dynamic, hard-hitting organization unit that attains its objectives to the satisfaction of those served and with a high degree of morale and sense of attainment on the part of those rendering the service” (p. 2). In this definition, as is the case with the previous definition of management cited herein, management is presented as a deliberate process that concerns itself with the management of resources (human or otherwise). In that regard, therefore, managers are presented as persons who ought to follow a set of guiding principles so as to ensure that the resources under their control are managed in an effective and efficient manner.

Yet another definition of management that could come in handy is that by Henry Fayol. It should be noted that Fayol is generally credited with having made significant contributions to the area of business administration. According to Fayol (as cited in Murugan, 2008), “to manage is to forecast and to plan, to organize to command, to coordinate and to control” (p. 2). It is important to note that to accomplish these factors, one requites some specific skills and capabilities. These skills could be gained via gathered experience or in a classroom/instructional setting.

It would also be prudent to take into consideration the meaning the American Management Association attaches to management. This is more so the case given the prominent role the organization plays towards the enhancement of management training. Management, according to the American Management Association (as cited in Murugan, 2008), has got to do with “guiding human and physical resources into dynamic organizational units which attain their objectives to the satisfaction of those served and with a high degree of morale and sense of attainment on the part of those rendering service” (p. 3).



Concerned with attainment of order and consistency

Focuses on constructive and adaptive processes of change

A planning and budgeting affair

Focuses on establishment of direction and alignment of people towards goal attainment

Skill can be acquired

Skill is innate

Table 1.1 Key differences between leadership and management

From the definitions of leadership and management highlighted herein, management appears to be more deliberate than leadership. It involves the management as well as coordination of resources (including people) so as to achieve a specific objective. Leadership, on the other hand comes across as being less intentional. Leaders, as opposed to managers, seem to possess some innate skills and capabilities that enable them to influence others to action. While these skills appear to be largely inborn, the skillset required to be an effective manager can be acquired. This is more so the case given that “just as managers have subordinates and leaders have followers, managers create circles of power while leaders create circles of influence” (Nayar, 2013). According to Northouse (2010), while management is more concerned with the attainment of consistence as well as order, leadership largely focuses on the constructive and adaptive processes of change. Further, the author observes that unlike is the case with leadership, management is more of a planning and budgeting undertaking. It involves such roles as staffing and organizing as well as problem solving and controlling (Northouse, 2010). Leadership, on the other hand, concerns itself with the establishment of direction and alignment of people towards the attainment of specific goals and objectives (Northouse, 2010). Other than seeking to solve problems and establish control via such actions as the development of incentives, generation of workable solutions to problems, and institution of corrective measure in instances where there are deviations; leadership seeks to motivate and inspire via actions such as the empowerment of followers (Northouse, 2010).

In the final analysis, it appears that although these two concepts appear to go hand in hand in, they are very distinct. However, in some instances, the two appear to complement each other. For instance both, according to Northouse (2010), involve influence. Also, as the author further points out, both concepts involve working with people. Thus while distinct, “many of the functions of management are activities that are consistent with the definition of leadership” (Northouse, 2010, p. 9).


Armstrong, M. & Stephens, T. (2005). A Handbook of Management and Leadership: A Guide to Managing for Results. Sterling, VA: Kogan Page Publishers.

Bertocci, D.I. (2009). Leadership in Organizations: There is a Difference between Leaders and Managers. New York, NY: University Press of America.

Murugan, M.S. (2008). Management Principles and Practices. New Delhi: New Age International.

Northouse, P.G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Washington, DC: SAGE

Nayar, V. (2013). Three Differences between Managers and Leaders. Retrieved from

Rost, J.C. (1993). Leadership for the Twenty-First Century. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Ricketts, C. & Ricketts, J. (2010). Leadership: Personal Development and Career Success (3rd ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

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