How Does Leadership Differ From Management?

Posted by Sheldon Senek

Are you a leader, or a manager?

While many of us think of leaders and managers interchangeably, there are actually important distinctions to be made between these two roles. The success of any organization will be dependent upon both leaders and managers, but organizations without true leaders will be limited in their successes. What’s more, many that identify themselves as leaders may be surprised to learn that they’re actually serving in a more managerial capacity.

So just what are the distinctions between these two roles?


  • Managers focus on the now; leaders focus on the future.

Managers are those who spend most of their time attending to daily tasks and deadlines, including dealing with employee issues, problem solving, or micromanaging the affairs of those they supervise. Individuals in these roles can be invaluable to a company, to be sure, but they should hold mid-tier positions, not positions at the top. Rather, those at the top should be focused on the overall direction of the company and forward to what’s ahead, instead of just what’s happening today. Without leadership that maintains focus on the broader, more strategic issues at hand, a company will be challenged to make progress and achieve long-term goals.

  • Managers accept; leaders challenge.

On this same note, managers and leaders can also be defined by their differences in perspective. Those that tend to accept things as they are, whether it be corporate profits, employee performance, or company organization, have the characteristics of a manager, while those inclined to challenge the status quo and innovate are better fit for leadership. The most profitable companies today are those that excel at innovation, which means leaders must be visionary and the source of original ideas if they wish to be competitive in their industry.

  • Managers control; leaders inspire.

As mentioned, leaders are those that look ahead and challenge the status quo, and these two qualities often make them sources of inspiration for their companies, (though even with these qualities, leaders must still possess the ability to unify and motivate their teams). Conversely, managers are those that tend to emphasize order and control in the workplace. While employees may enjoy working with managers, they’re likely not more passionate about their work because of these managers. As leadership¬†speaker Mike Abrashoff explains when speaking about his experience leading the USS Benfold as one of the most junior commanding officers in the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, the ability to connect with team members to achieve positive outcomes is dependent not just on rule and order, but on the ability to foster cohesion, collaboration, and motivation.

  • Managers value output; leaders value skill.

Poor employee retention rates can be incredibly detrimental to companies’ success, and one of the best ways to improve retention rates and increase overall employee satisfaction is to emphasize employees’ personal strengths. When output is valued above actual skill, it’s a sign that meaningful leadership is absent. As motivational speaker Marcus Buckingham, a former Senior Researcher at Gallup Organization, argues in his keynote speeches, companies should strive to ensure that 75% of an employee’s day is spent doing something that relies their strongest skills. Doing so ensures that employees are more productive and confident in their abilities.

For more insight as to what defines leadership, contact us at Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau and learn more about our top leadership speakers.

Posted by Sheldon Senek
Sheldon Senek is the President of Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau and writes about expert keynote speakers and Motivational Speakers, as well as tips for corporate meeting planners.

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