Management vs. Leadership: What’s the Difference?

For many people, the terms “management” and “leadership” are interchangeable. While I believe there is some overlap, these two concepts are mostly mutually exclusive and are markedly different skills. While few people excel at both, both are critical to one’s success as a manager. One can be a brilliant manager but a terrible leader and vice versa. The difference between the two is one of focus.

Management is focused inwardly on the business operation. Management is about policy, controls, procedure, systems and process. Management deals with the “functional” side of business. Some examples are managing expenses, maintaining a schedule, generating reports, setting goals and measuring outcomes. As Peter Drucker once said, “Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their jobs done.”

Leadership is outwardly focused on the people and relationships in and around your business. It is about building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders, including your staff and their families, your patients, the community you serve and your business partners. Leadership deals with the “interpersonal” side of the business. Leadership is about creating a vision, helping those around you see that vision and inspiring unified action, through development and accountability, in pursuit of the vision.

Historically, these two concepts have been lumped together into the concept of “management.” More recently, there have been countless blogs, white papers and books written to differentiate the two. While I agree they are best separated when developing an intellectual understanding of the two, one without the other, in application, simply does not work.

If you are someone’s “boss,” do your best to both manage and lead your team to success. While you may be more comfortable in one role instead of the other, your success and the success of your team is contingent upon your ability to find balance in the application of both management and leadership.