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The Difference between Leadership and Management


This essay highlights the difference between the roles played by leadership and management for a successful organization. The review is divided into four sections: 1) Overview of distinction between leadership and management in an organisation 2) The Similarities and differences between functions of leadership and management in a multinational organisation 3) If leadership and management provide distinct and complimentary roles within an organisation 4) Conclusion.

Overview of Distinction between Leadership and Management in an Organisation

There is no clear definition of the term leadership so far. However, the word leadership is frequently used in everyday life and its application determines its definition. It is difficult for many people to differentiate between leadership and management in an organizational context (Mayer, Ashleigh, George & Jones 2007).

Although there is no clear definition of leadership and management, many scholars have tried to describe these terms according to their opinions. According to Meyer et al (2007, p. 3) management can be described as the process of leading, planning, controlling and organising. Meyer et al (2007, p.460), define leadership as the process through which a leader interacts with a follower in a manner that allows the leader to influence the actions of the follower in a consensus way, so as to achieve particular objectives. Kotter (2001) generalizes that management is all about coping with complexity while leadership is all about coping with change. The main distinction between leadership and management is in orientation to change (Kotter 1990; Zaleznik 1997). According to Zaleznik (1997), management is concerned with the present and does not bother about the organisation purpose and identity. On the other hand, leadership is about influencing what people perceive is possible, desired and necessary (Zaleznik 1997, p. 71). Management is purely administrative where managers prepare business budgets, draw budgets and monitor business progress. Leadership on the other hand is about organising and changing people.

An outstanding difference between management and leadership is that while management is a core function of any business, leadership is a mere relationship between the leader and followers, which works towards bonding an organisation. According to Kotter (1990), management precisely deals with complexity brought about when organisations expand. Therefore, management is about influencing stability and steadiness while leadership is about influencing change.

The Similarities and Differences between Functions of Leadership and Management in a Multinational Organisation

From the above distinction, it is clear that leadership and management perform different functions in an organisation. A clear analysis is therefore necessary to differentiate between the two. According to Zaleznic (1977), for successful leadership, leaders have to use their power to influence thoughts and actions of people. On the other hand, the basic function of a manager is to solve problems.

According to Kotter (1990), the difference can be fully analyzed in five dimensions: direction, relationships, alignment, personal qualities and outcomes as outlined below.


The principal role of managers in a conventional multinational security organization is to prepare business plans and budgets as per the organisation vision and mission. Consequently, managers require both educational experience and skills to implement the organisations’ vision and goals for effective management of the organisation resources. In most cases, managers may not achieve the goals since they mostly concentrate on implementation of the plans at the expense of the organisation vision (Kotter 1990).

On the other hand, leaders have to set direction that will determine how the organisation achieves its goals and vision. Therefore, a leader must have perfect knowledge of how market operates in order for the organisation to be competitive in the global market. The principal vision of a leader is the change without which it is difficult for an organisation to grow and compete in the global market today (Kotter, 1990).


Management mobilises organisation’s resources to achieve its goals and vision. Managers ensure this by acquiring reliable human resource and correct procedures, directing and controlling them towards achieving the goals. Therefore, management should always evaluate implementation of those.

In contrast, leadership ensures achievement of organisation’s vision and goals through communicating it to all stakeholders. Leaders must therefore ensure that all departments within an organisation reason together (Kotter 1990).


For effective leadership, a good relationship should exist between the agent (the leader) and the target (the followers). Harmony between these parties leads to an embedded power in a relationship. Such a relationship leads to an effective leadership (Kotter 1990).

Personal Qualities

An effective leader is required to have exceptional personality traits. The basic ones include humility, problem solver, non-judgemental, observant, passionate about improvement, humorous and communicative. People who possess these qualities are very effective leaders (Kotter 1990).


Leaders who can successfully influence their followers on the organisation goals increase the chances of success for such organisation (Meyer et al. 2007).

Do Leadership and Management Provide Distinct and Complimentary Roles Within an Organisation?

Leadership and management play different roles for success of the organisation and they both are keys to success. According to Kotter (1990), a manager and a leader must not be different personalities. He explains that most successful organisations prefer employees who have both leadership and management qualities (Kotter 1990). In contrast, Zaleznik (1977) alleges that leadership and management have different approaches hence leaders and managers should be different people. He explains that the requirements of management are very different from those of leadership therefore.

The second difference is whether leadership and management require training. The big question is whether leadership is trainable or it is an inborn self-driven trait. According to Kotter (1990), leaders are trainable. He claims that young people can be trained to be leaders by delegating responsibilities to them and letting them learn from their mistakes to become great leaders. In contrast, Zaleznik (1977, p. 68) argues that leadership is self-driven hence people cannot be trained to become leaders.

According to Drucker (2005), leadership can be either trained or innate. However, for one to grow into strong leadership he must have high self-awareness. Therefore, leaders should focus on raising their self-awareness. Self-awareness includes values, personal strengths, relationships, performance techniques and contribution opinions among others (Drucker 2005). Tannenbaum (1958) describes various leadership patterns and clearly explains the difference between authoritarian and democratic leadership.


Leadership and management are important qualities for a successful organisation. Leadership is the process through which a leader influences a group of followers and the performance of an organisation. Usually, the followers are subordinates staff who receive instructions from their leaders. A leader also influences the behaviour of the followers. Consequently, leadership is a relationship between the leader and followers that should be correctly grown, cultivated and upheld.

Management on the other hand is an organisational function that works to bring order and stability within the organisation. The managers ensure this by mobilising human resource and other organisational resources. Although management and leadership play distinct and separate roles, both are keys for successful and competitive organisations.

Reference List

Drucker, PF 2005, “Peter F. Drucker on self-leadership”, Leadership Excellence, vol. 22, no. 6, pp. 13-14, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost.

Kotter, JP 1990, “What leaders really do”, Harvard Business Review, vol. 68, no. 3, pp. 103-111, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost.

Meyer, E, Ashleigh, M, George, JM & Jones, GR 2007, Contemporary Management, European Edition, New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Tannenbaum, R & Schmidt, W 1958, “How to choose a leadership pattern”, Harvard Business Review, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 95-101, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost.

Zaleznik, A 1977, “Managers and leaders: are they different?”, Harvard Business Review, vol. 55, no. 3, pp. 67-78, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost.