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Difference Between Management & Leadership

There is a difference between management and leadership and if you can understand the difference you will improve as a leader yourself. So what is the difference between management and leadership?

The dictionary defines management as being in charge, controlling, administrating, handling. Leadership is defined as being the principal or “front-runner” , holding the chief role. However another distinction is as a leader you need followers. As a manager you don’t all you need are resources, money, projects for example. There are 3 components to any situation  requiring a leader:-

  • A leader
  • A situation
  • A group of people

These 3 components have led to 3 theories on leadership.

The Leader – Trait Theory

Do you believe that leaders are born and not made? Well this is basically what the trait theory is – people are born with certain traits that make them a good leader. Therefore a born leader would emerge naturally within any group because they would have the traits or qualities necessary to be a leader. However over the years this theory ahs lost some credence and others have

Have gained greater credibility. However there are certain things you can do to improve your trait leadership. You need to improve your abilities and work on areas you now are weaker than others such as:-

  • Ability to see opportunities
  • Adaptability
  • Analysis
  • Communication
  • Decision-making
  • Enthusiasm

The Situation – Situational Theory

There is no such thing as a born leader but there are a whole variety of characteristics that might make a person a good leader, which people have a mixture of. In any situation the person best suited to that situation will emerge as the leader. This theory says that leaders rise to power. There are 3 sources of power that a leader can build on: position; personality and expertise.

You can improve your situational leadership by developing power or authority relevant to situations you commonly find yourself in:-

  • Take advantage of training
  • Keep up-to-date
  • Find out about areas you are weak in
  • Learn from others by talking
  • Keep close to your boss
  • Think ahead

The Group – Functional Theory

This third theory on leadership, based on John Adair’s theory, says that any group has a number of functions it needs to perform – a number of needs that need to be fulfilled. The leader will be the one who can best satisfy those needs. These are in three categories: team, task and individual needs.

Team: The group of people needs to be drawn together and organised so they co-operate with each other.

Task: The task the group is faced with needs to be achieved

Individual : Individuals need to be recognised and utilised appropriately – they need to use their skills and talents when they can.

A good leader will concentrate on all three functions or needs. Too much attention on one will be at the expense of another. Here lies again the difference between a manager and a leader. By balancing these three components of functional leadership the leader can best satisfy the needs of the group to improve team, individual and organisation performance. To improve your functional leadership concentrate on:-


  • Set standards
  • Monitor and evaluate performance


  • Communicate
  • Encourage co-operation and compromise in the event of differences between staff


  • Encourage people to get involved
  • Get to know people
  • Delegate
  • Make criticism constructive
  • Develop peoples skills

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"Experience plus reflection equals learning" - John Dewey