Management vs. Leadership, can you tell the difference?

Management vs. Leadership, can you tell the difference?

28 Oct

Author : Annie Curran, Categories : Web Site Development

You may have noticed that in some companies there are project managers and in others project leaders, but have you ever wondered if there was really a difference between the two?  The following article will attempt to shed some light on that very idea and show you the main differences.



What is management?

Management can be summed up by this definition: “Management is the discipline that specializes in maintaining status quo, conforming to standards and organizing and directing individuals around boundaries set to achieve the task”. So in other words, managers are more concerned with doing things right and telling people how to do it.

Management is more task oriented, following processes and methods put in place and focuses on getting the job done quickly and efficiently.  Managers are often reactive in nature and pay more attention to the urgent rather than the important.  Having managers on your team is great when you’re in a situation where you just need to deal with emergencies and need things resolved in the here & now.

While these are all great aspects of managers, there is also a danger lurking behind it: By tending to urgent short-term requests, we are operating at a surface level instead of addressing root causes and opening ourselves up to thinking smarter thoughts and asking the right questions. Asking the right set of questions is often more powerful than simply providing the right set of answers!


What is leadership?

Leadership can be defined or interpreted in many ways, but as a general starting point, you could define a leader as someone that  is more concerned with setting goals, making improvements to existing ways of working and motivating and leading the team to reaching a new direction. They can be characterized by sharing an inspiring vision, producing useful change, leading by example, empowering others and creating the most conducive environment for team success.  In other words Managers are more concerned about doing things right, whereas Leaders will concentrate more on doing the right things.

In order to be a leader, you need to first and foremost gain some insight on who you are as a person and what motivates you.  Leadership is not attained through a job title but through a continuous journey of introspection, observation and development.  Becoming a leader is not something that happens overnight, but is generally achieved over longer periods of time since it requires namely a change in mindset.  Changing ones mindset and introspection is often a long journey and not one to be taken lightly or something that should be rushed; it is ongoing and can be used for all facets of one’s life, not just in business.

To give you a high level comparison of management vs. leadership here is a list taken from the book “The Power of Project Leadership by Susanne Madsen”:





Task oriented

People oriented

Skills based


Relational thinking







Involves people


Leads through others


Listen & motivates

Telling people

Asking people

“Push” approach

“Pull” approach

Stutus quo

Risk taking

Leaders are generally more people oriented and visionaries, rather than “doers”.  They have the ability to listen and motivate others as well as show empathy with an innate ability to connect with people, which is critical if you want to be a good leader.  If you are building a team for a project, something to keep in mind is that building high performing teams and great customer relationships and ensuring that the project actually delivers what the customer needs cannot be achieved solely through logic.  It requires creativity, empathy, risk-taking, vision and most importantly, the ability to connect with people on a personal level.

This in no way denigrates managers and what they do and are able to accomplish. In many companies, you need managers as much as you need leaders, because often times you have tight deadlines and don’t necessary have the time or the resources to delve deeper in strategy, you need things to get done in a timely manner and methodically and managers will help you get there successfully.

In short, the main difference between managers and leaders are that Managers want to get things done quickly and effectively without necessarily paying attention to the vision, whereas Leaders want to understand, listen and provide their own vision in order to achieve something greater than just status quo.  How about you, do you think you are more of a manager or a leader?


Tags : Compagny, leader, manager, project

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