The Difference Between Leadership and Management

by | Jul 1, 2020 | Leadership

I just recently added another category to our Your Leadership Coach blog. That category is Management. (To learn more about why I added this category and the purpose of the categories on this blog, check out the update here.)

For some, it may seem repetitious to have a leadership category and a management category. Many people (including me at times), use these words interchangeably. However, there is a fundamental difference between leadership and management, and the sooner we recognize this the more effective we will be at leading and managing.

To start our conversation on leadership and management, I think Stephen Covey best illustrates the difference by this analogy in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (which is also in my top 2 favorite leadership books of all time):

“You can quickly grasp the important difference between the two if you envision a group of producers cutting their way through the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers, the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.

The managers are behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies, and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.

The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, ‘Wrong jungle!’ But how do the busy, efficient producers and managers often respond? ‘Shut up! We’re making progress.’”

Do you see the difference? Here are some of the characteristics of leadership and management: 

The main characteristics of good leadership are…



My favorite definition of leadership comes from John Maxwell when he says that “leadership is influence.” Leadership is not about a job title or a position. People can’t “give you” leadership. It’s something that you earn. Leadership is the ability to inspire and motivate others to act, to realize their dreams, to pursue self-development, etc. 



How do leaders inspire and motivate? Through their vision. They understand that people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. A great leader knows both their personal vision or purpose in this life and also the vision or desired culture for their team and/or organization. They influence, inspire, or create a following through personally embodying their vision and publicly proclaiming it. 



Perhaps the biggest difference between leadership and management is people. Leadership is specifically about others. Your vision is not meant to be kept for yourself. It’s meant to inspire others to become the best versions of themselves. The only way a leader can accomplish this is through empathy and building trust. 

As I’ve heard it said, “be effective with people and efficient with tasks.” And that’s where leadership ends and management begins. 


The main characteristic of good management is…



Managers focus on the ROI. How do they get the most out of their people and systems? How do they work smarter and not just harder? How can they multiply their efforts?

The three areas that effective managers focus on when it comes to efficiency are: 

  1. Time
  2. Meetings (1:1s, team, corporate, etc.)
  3. Systems (task management, communication like email or Slack, CRMs, etc.)


Why is it important to know the difference between leadership and management?

Management without leadership lacks purpose. Leadership without management lacks productivity. You need both to be successful whether personally or professionally. 



Game Plan

Most people are either more naturally gifted at leadership or management, but usually not both. 

  1. Recognize which one (leadership or management) you are most gifted in. Ask your friends. Take a strengths or personality assessment. I recommend StrengthsFinder 2.0 and/or the Enneagram.
  2. Focus on one strength to refine (whether that be in leadership or management). 
  3. Recognize one weakness from the area you are naturally gifted in (leadership or management) and get that weakness to par or average.


If you are interested in some coaching on how to develop your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses, check out our coaching programs here. We offer a wide variety of options, including 1:1 coaching, coaching cohorts, and our brand new virtual coaching called YLC+


Tweetable Lesson



7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey)

StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Gallup)

The Road Back to You (a book on the Enneagram by Cron & Stabile)

Coaching Programs & Resources