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For decades, and even until today, the words Leadership and Management are often thought to be synonymous by many. This is a common misconception

For decades, and even until today, the words Leadership and Management are often thought to be synonymous by many. This is a common misconception that has been has been thoroughly studied over the years. Kotter (2013) pointed out three common mistakes on the distinction issue: 1)People use the terms Management and Leadership interchangeably, 2)The essay writer word Leadership is used to describe people at the top management, 3)People think Leadership is a personality characteristic. In today’s official definition, “Management” is the conducting or supervising of something, and “Leadership” is a capacity. In other words, Management is a set of processes, and Leadership is a future excellent performance, which means a position of superior sustainable performance. Using the word Leadership to describe management or managers is a misnomer. Leadership does not only belong to the top rungs in the ladder. Every single person, whether in an organization or not, has the possibility of possessing the characteristics of a leader. It is a relational, shared process that focuses on followership.

Initially, leadership was considered to be an inborn characteristic only shared among great men. In our history, prior to the 70s, many great leaders were good commanders. They possessed technical and management skills relevant to their field and in their organizations, with an idealistic view of target outcomes. Functions, tasks and responsibilities were assigned to workers according to the mission with little or no regard to an individual’s ability or perceived skills. By the mid-1980s, the leadership trends shifted towards being people-oriented as human limitations became even more apparent, and workers getting alienated from their occupations was no longer a theory but a proven fact that was resulting in unfavorable consequences. Understanding the leadership models we have today can help us solidify the distinction between Management and Leadership, incorporate its individual concepts into our management duties, and drive us to become better influencers.

According to Kotterman (2006), although leadership and management share similarities, the two are distinct concepts from each other. There are four processes that distinguish leadership from the other concept: vision establishment, human development and networking, vision execution, and vision outcome. Management roles on the other hand involve budgeting, planning, organizing, maintaining structures, controlling processes, providing results, etc. To wit, its main focus is on improving efficiency, risk avoidance and management, and achieving short-term goals over the long term.

While both leaders and managers aim to influence people, there is a difference in their approach to doing so. There are five categories where the approaches differ between the two: thinking process, goal setting, employee relations, operations, and governance (Lunenberg, 2011). According to Lunenberg’s theory, leaders are people-oriented and strive to empower their followers, bringing out the best in each individual and maximizing his/her potential in the workplace. They use their influence to create a future by articulating a vision shared and understood by the whole team who equally sees the bigger picture. Contrarily, managers’ focus are on things / specifics, the execution of plans, and on improving the present by coordinating, directing and controlling subordinates through the use of authority. As a leader is expected to act decisively, managers are expected to act responsibly. While their goals are the same, their roles and strategies differ, and a balance of both is essential in any organizational structure for it to be successful. Although both of these characteristics can be found in varying degrees in an individual, good leaders are not necessarily good managers and vice versa.

From my point of view, management is a static skill and leadership is more dynamic. When dealing with tasks, resources are predictable. The challenge is in how to effectively utilize the skills, talents and abilities that your manpower has and influence them to keep improving themselves and giving them autonomy. This is where communication and leadership styles come in. Different people respond to different styles of communication and approaches. It can be attributed to people’s background, orientation, level of education, customs, beliefs and general worldview, but ultimately a good leader is able to identify these and employs a suitable leadership style that would work best in any given situation.

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There are three basic leadership styles that are commonly observed in regular organizational settings: Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-Faire. An autocratic or authoritarian form of leadership tends to put emphasis on control and command with particular focus on efficiency. A democratic style seeks involvement from followers, where decision-making is shared, and each member is valued for his or her skills, abilities and contributions made to the team. A Laissez-Faire form of leadership, as the term implies, is very relaxed with minimal or non-existent use of intervention. A free rein is given to the followers. The leader’s role is to guide them in reaching their goals while decision-making is relegated to the skilled followers. These different styles can be categorized further under varying situations. In order to be able to identify which situational leadership style to employ, a leader must possess both a supportive behavior and a directive behavior. A directive behavior involves activities directly, with the use of single-direction communication. A supportive behavior, on the other hand, is bilateral. Leaders listen and communicate rather than control and give orders. If favorable action is missing from the principal activity, it is merely managing, but not being a leader. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. This, for me, makes leadership a dynamic role.

Leadership styles can be categorized into four models: Directing, Coaching, Supporting, and Delegating. According to the leadership style test I took in class, I belong to the Supporting Style. I prefer to listen and provide support to aid others. My style can be proved in a real case scenario. I am now doing Public Service Internship at the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology as an administrative assistant and a teaching helper. When I am doing my tasks assisting class events, young children would often ask me questions. Being naturally inquisitive, they can ask questions such as, “How do I do my task?” “Why do we need to have classes?” or even ask me something not related to class material such as “Who is your favorite rock star?” When a child is unable to understand the instructions made in class, they would ask me to help them out with their classwork or group projects. My response is to guide them into understanding the goal by observing their surroundings and the other children, to watch how other children are doing their tasks, and then ask about their observation and feedback until they themselves figure out their tasks and how to get started on their own. I assist by guiding them. When I get asked awkward questions in class, I do not criticize the child verbally but keep a stern face to show authority and advise them to pay attention to teacher. My teaching style matches the leadership style well. Other than the teaching environment, I show a supportive leadership style in my team. I draft a plan for the team to foster teamwork. During the team meetings, I to listen to my teammates’ ideas and inputs, and provide a summary and feedback at the end of each meeting. I show my respect everyone’s ideas and opinions and give them enough space for practice. In my mind, everyone is an independent individual with exceptional talent. A supportive leader style can offer an opportunity for individual development and have a chance to exercise freedom of expression. However, there are limitations and it cannot be negated. During my teaching experience, I listen more and show mild behavior. Through this, it is easier to get closer to my students and become friends with them. But this close relationship can cause children to behave uncontrollably as they no longer see me as a form of authority. In this situation, I should be more autocratic and show clear distinction in our roles in class by employing the reward and punishment tactic toward student’s actions. Young children do not have many experiences, so mutual communication cannot always work.


Managers are not always leaders and leaders are not always managers. Over the years, many theorists and researches have come up with differentiation between the two and rightly so. While there is clearly an overlap in their roles, for me, the most distinct difference between leadership and management is the flexibility that must be shown by a leader. Leadership is a dynamic role, while management is rigid. Every person has a fixed leadership style preference, however, leadership styles should be tailored according to each situation one is faced with.


Kotter, J. P. (2013). Management is (Still) Not Leadership. Harvard Business Review.

Retrieved from: Management Is (Still) Not Leadership

Kotterman, J. (2006). Leadership Versus Management: What’s the Difference?

Journal for Quality & Participation, Vol. 29 Issue 2

Lunenburg, F. C. (2011). Leadership versus Management: A Key Distinction—At Least in

Theory.  International Journal of Management, Business, and Administration,

14 (1), 1-4.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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