Skip to main content
Interested in Studying with the University of Adelaide?
I’m interested in…
Enter the characters shown in the image.

The Difference Between Leadership and Management

While the term ‘leader’ and ‘manager’ tend to be used interchangeably, there are some key differences between each of the roles. When it comes to those in people-management or supervisory roles may consider themselves a good manager, this does not automatically mean they have good leadership skills.

In 1977, Abraham Zaleznik, an organisational psychodynamics scholar stated that the difference between managers and leaders “lies in the conceptions they hold, deep in their psyches, of chaos and order. Managers embrace processes, seek stability, and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly—sometimes before they fully understand a problem’s significance. Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure to understand the issues more fully.” This traditional view of influential leadership supports the idea that businesses need both good leaders and good managers in order to succeed - leaders' creative and imaginative skills compliments manager's emphasis on logic.

Manager vs leader: who produces better results?

A study on the difference between leaders and managers outlines that managers are usually enforcers of systems and procedures, they maintain an influence of power by reinforcing hierarchical business structures. They tend to be transactional leaders, that focus on the supervision and organisation of employees. A leader, on the other hand, is an innovator that pushes for development, progress, and change by inspiring and supporting their teammates. 

While businesses do require both leaders and managers, strictly reinforcing rigid structures is becoming less appealing in modern businesses with collaboration and innovation taking precedence. With the rapid rate of change in most industries not set to slow down, businesses are seeking adaptable, influential leaders who are agile and able to take risks while inspiring others to do the same.

3 Key Leadership Skills

Leader vs manager1. Strong Personal Brand 

Leaders tend to be very self-aware, they are constantly working on upskilling and learning through both experiences and those around them. Leaders focus on developing a strong personal brand, they are confident in their ability, allowing them to stand out and be heard. This allows leaders to be viewed as authentic and transparent. Influential leaders focus on developing a strong personal brand, they are confident in their ability, allowing them to stand out and be heard.

2. Inspiring 

One of the key differences between a manager and a leader is their approach to business goals. Leaders tend to take a holistic view on performance, focussing on a long-term vision that is bigger than just the responsibility of individuals. Leaders tend to focus on motivating and inspiring individuals, providing them with the confidence to perform at their best – they see individuals within the business as their biggest asset. 

Managers on the other hand focus more on processes, valuing and offering tangible rewards to employees that reach business goals by following directions. Rather than seeing employees as assets they to tend to place more value on structured systems which allow individuals to achieve proven results. These can mean that their employees are not always pushed to innovate, sometimes leaving them feeling stagnant within their roles. 

3. Agile and innovative

Comfortable with change and disruption, leaders are considered ‘change agents’ within a business. They can accept constant change within their industry and business and have the leaderships skills to assess business opportunities and take a calculated risk. Managers on the other hand tend to follow the status quo and take direction from more senior leadership.  They rely on proven process and existing frameworks, which can limit their ability to innovate or ‘step outside the box’. 

Become an influential leader and excel in your career

Leadership can come naturally to some, however, there are teachable skills that can enhance your management style, providing you with the skillset and confidence to become a leader within your business.

Undertaking a Master of Business Administration provides you with the right skills to become an influential leader. The University of Adelaide offers an online MBA that focuses on upskilling managers offering the right tools to jump from a manager to a leader. With courses like ‘Leadership and Influencing’ and ‘Managing People and Organisations‘, this program has been designed to train the next generation of business leadership. The University of Adelaide is part of the Group of Eight, which means that it is recognised as a leading university in Australia. Choose to become the leader you have always wanted and make real organisational change. 

If you have any questions about the online Master of Business Administration or around enrolment, make an appointment to speak with an advisor today.