5 Major Differences Between Leadership and Management

Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Contributed by Anna Thiele

Anna focuses on facilitating leadership development and educational training at Deliberate Directions. Anna received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication, with a certificate in Leadership and Human Resources, from Boise State University. In her spare time, Anna enjoys rock climbing, traveling, bike packing, and personality tests. 

In this article, we explore the major differences between leadership and management including how leaders inspire and motivate others, provide vision, empower others, help others to dream bigger and take risks.

1. Leaders Inspire and Motivate Others

Leadership focuses on inspiring and motivating others to achieve common goals, while management focuses on organizing and coordinating activities to achieve specific goals.

An objective focuses on the result and doesn’t often take into consideration the feelings or contributions of others. It’s usually a solitary choice by whoever is in charge and expects others to follow suit. In contrast, a goal requires desire, ambition, and effort from the entire group involved. When dealing with goals, it takes the leadership of one who inspires and motivates others to achieve.

When building rapport with your team, ensure it is authentic and not ill-motived. If people sense you are doing something to impress someone else or check a box on what you’re ‘supposed’ to do, they’ll be less likely to respect you.

Tips for coordinating less and inspiring more:

  • Rather than telling the group what to do, ask for agreeance in moving forward
  • For larger projects, set time individually to get everyone’s thoughts before moving forward
  • Before the point of decision, build rapport with your team

2.Leaders Set the Vision

Leadership involves setting the vision for the future while guiding others towards it, while management involves planning and implementing strategies to meet specific goals.

Setting the vision for your team does require strategizing and implementation. However, the difference here is that leaders guide others through an idea. While managers set a vision and expect you to achieve their goals for them, a leader considers the steps necessary for the whole team to see the concept in completion from start to finish. As a result, leading a team through a shared vision has a different attitude about it, making it more inspiring for others.

Tips to guide others to the shared vision after strategizing:

  • Include the team in quarterly vision and goal setting
  • Assign tasks equally to give ownership to the shared vision
  • Empower everyone involved
  • Check-in regularly to encourage, not micromanage, your team
  • Be available for support when needed

3. Leaders Empower Others

Leadership involves influencing and empowering others, while management involves controlling and directing others.

Empowering others can sometimes feel like you’ve lost control as the person in charge. A manager holds this mindset. I guarantee that if you let someone do a task the way they want, given the outcome is the same, it will turn out to be better than what you expected. These are the results that come with empowering others. It is surprising how often someone offering help turns into micromanaging the entire way. It may seem scary to relinquish control, but leaders love to empower others in this way.

Tips on controlling less:

  • Rather than micromanaging a project, check in as needed
  • Praise those who offer to help by giving them creative freedom
  • Recognize the expert in every position
  • Ask for help from your team, even if you don’t NEED it

4. Leaders Dream Bigger

Leadership is more concerned with the big picture and long-term goals, while management is more focused on the day-to-day operations and short-term objectives.

A manager runs an office that feels stale. Their goals are played safe, and their employees aren’t encouraged to dream bigger. Goals are established based on what has worked in the past. The stale feeling comes from the employees not being motivated to do more than the bare minimum, evident when a company hasn’t grown more than 1% of its previous annual revenue. Whereas, because a leader dreams big, companies with leaders are more monetarily prosperous. Leaders run an establishment based on quarterly or yearly goals, while managers are living day by day.

Tips for dreaming bigger:

  • Don’t let fear prevent you from achieving
  • Stray from mainstream media; instead, consult close business experts
  • Engage with your big dreams daily or, at the minimum, weekly
  • Continue to involve others in your dreams

5. Leaders Take Risks

Leadership involves taking risks and making decisions, while management involves following established policies and procedures.

Risk can come in several ways. Think about someone with low income taking a financial risk as an entrepreneur because they believe in their product’s usefulness and ingenuity. Instead, on the flip side, someone that is secure financially leaves their job to pursue something more in line with their morals or creative ingenuity. A manager operates their business with a scarcity mindset. Leaders encourage themselves and their teams to go after the scary things while not putting away logic and acting impulsively. In taking this risk, they are more likely to commit, giving total effort to a project. At the time, a risk may not make sense for financial wellness or stability. Good leaders come into play during these situations. To take risks of this severity, you need support from those who won’t let fear discourage them. It would be best if you had a team of cheerleaders who want only the best for you while encouraging risky moves.

Tips for taking risks:

  • Have a support team of 3-5 strong leaders
  • When fearful or discouraged, go through ‘WOOP’ with your goals
  • Publicize your intention
  • Be held accountable by a close leader


If you are interested in your leadership growth, consider joining our 3 session Emerging Leaders training (offered in the Spring and Fall every year).

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