The Difference Between Leaders and Managers


Many companies and organizations make a mistake of thinking that managers and leaders are the same when they really are not. Most successful companies or organizations realize they need  both. They strive to establish a strong leadership process, not to replace, but the supplement the management process. This is especially important when the company or organization is experiencing cultural change.

Unlike even the very best management process, leadership has as its primary function the production of change. Without leadership, purposeful change of any magnitude is almost impossible.

John P. Kotter, in his book A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management, gives us some help in differentiating the two processes:


Plan and budget    

Organize and staff the structure

Control and problem solve


Establish direction

Align people

Motivate and inspire

MANAGEMENT, according to Kotter, produces a degree of predictability and order, and has the potential of consistently producing key results expected by the stakeholders.

LEADERSHIP produces change, often to a dramatic degree, and has the potential of producing extremely useful change (new products, new approaches, etc.).

Both leadership and management are vital to healthy, growing, and changing organizations. They bring separate talents and a different focus that’s necessary to achieve the results. 

One key to remember is not confusing the two. Let each work in their area of strength and purpose to best reach the ultimate organizational goals and vision.


5 Responses to “The Difference Between Leaders and Managers”

  1. Jim Seybert says:

    Right on !! here’s some questions for you to consider: Interested on your view:
    Can an individual adequately fulfill both roles?
    If you had a choice, which would be more critical to the success of an organization? Are the more people mis-labled as leaders, or managers?

  2. Good questions, Jim. From my perspective I dont think a person can be both. I think they can try and be good at both for a short burst of time, but ultimately their true talent or strength will need to be exercised and theyll fall into a backup leadership style trying to be something they are not wired naturally to do. I think both are critical to the success of the organization. For your last question, I think many managers are mis-labeled as leaders and to take it a step further, many leaders dont succeed because people may want a manager for the role and think the leader is not in charge of the process which he or she is not, because they cast vision, they interact and motivate, not manage details.
    Wayne Hastings
    Tel: 615.429.5745
    Twitter: wayne_hastings
    Skype: wayne_hastings

  3. Good reminder. Why is it that each one tries to operate as the other?

  4. Misty Bourne says:

    This is a very good post! It’s also a good reminder to those of us who are not in management positions–that we can lead from wherever we are on the totem pole. 🙂
    Thanks for posting!

  5. Yes, thats absolutely true. Leading or managing from the middle is critical.
    Wayne Hastings
    Tel: 615.429.5745
    Twitter: wayne_hastings
    Skype: wayne_hastings

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