Management Is Not True Leadership

Many young leaders get management and leadership confused. They can fall into the trap of thinking they’re the same. They are not the same.

It can be a dangerous thought pattern to fall into.

Management and leadership have similar qualities. Both require results, action, and growth. But management and leadership achieve these results in different ways.

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.”
— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Here are 10 ways that management and leadership differ.

Management longs for control.
Leadership wants to give control to the individual team members.

Management wants to be right.
Leadership requires finding a middle ground.

Management doesn’t require ongoing education.
Leadership demands you keep learning.

Management tries to hold onto the title.
Leadership is looking for ways to promote others to your level.

Management looks for ways to get employees to do the task.
Leadership finds a way to get employees to want to do the task.

“Leadership is not so much about technique and methods as it is about opening the heart. Leadership is about inspiration—of oneself and of others. Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes. Leadership is not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others. It is an attitude, not a routine.”
— Lance Secretan

Management controls the direction.
Leadership wants to set a new vision that the team wants to follow.

Management requires monitoring of employees to ensure they’re doing their jobs.
Leadership is training up employees so you don’t have to continuously monitor their performance.

Management focuses on results.
Leadership focuses on development.

Management does good things.
Leadership does the right things.

Management demands.
Leadership influences.

While it may seem that I am knocking management, I’m not. Management has it’s place.

There are times when results, good things, and direction need to be the focus. Yet true leaders know you must go beyond that.

True leadership requires influence, relationships, and trust as the foundation. Upon that you must build the organization that will benefit humanity.

Are you managing or are you leading?

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
— Stephen R. Covey

Question: How do you think management and true leadership differ? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Wow, this is excellent Joe! I would add that true leaders have a servant attitude… it’s not all about me but all about you 🙂

  • Mckeefreelance

    Great article Joe. A friend of mine asked, “have you ever tried to push a rope?” Leaders don’t push. Leaders pull out the best in others.

  • Joe, thoughtful post. Leadership is all about empowerment and encouragement. And anyone, regardless of position, can become a leader.

    • Skip, so true. Even without the title someone can become a great leader. It’s all in how they look at their surroundings and the actions they take.

  • Great post Joe! I think the hardest one to give up is control. Great leadership is about empowerment and service. I love the quote you reference about heart. Great leaders genuinely care about the people they lead. You have also provided some great contrasts here. Good stuff Joe!

    • I agree! True leadership is doing instead of telling someone to do it. True leaders are willing to put their words into action. Service is very important.

    • Giving up control can be very difficult. We’re bombarded by a world that tells us “It’s my way or the highway, or “If you want it done right, you must do it yourself.” With these messages it’s no wonder why giving up control is so hard.

      Do you have any tips on how to give up control and let your team do the work they need to do?

  • Management and leadership are two different approaches. Thanks for sharing!

  • Wonderful post.

    I think a person can adapt and use both leadership and management skills and techniques. However often those two functions are separated. I think the key no matter if your a leader or manager is to apply both into what your doing. Just my thoughts.

    • Dan, I’m with you. Management skills and leadership skills are needed in your role as a leader. But too often they get confused and a leader will slide towards management over being a real leader. When in reality they need to be using both sets of skills.

      How have you been able to apply management skills into your leadership?

  • Again Joe I wish I could share this post with the managers at the company I work at, it’s everything they’re doing. People will never truly follow you if you bully them, that’s whats going on at this company.

    • It’s too bad you can’t share it with them. Maybe it could improve the situations at the company.

      What ill affects have come from the bullying you’ve seen?

      • DS

        I try to demonstrate, in my interactions, the way I want to be treated, as well as what leadership looks like.

        Sounds like a tough environment – keep your head up and applying what you learn from all of the leadership resources at your disposal.

  • DS

    The great thing about leadership, is that you can do it from anywhere in the organization. You can demonstrate to others what leadership looks like even if your not “management.”

    • Exactly DS. Leadership is more of a mindset than a title or position. Being a leader is doing what’s right, not what is required.

  • You hit the nail right on the head, Joe. As a teacher I’ve learned to pull, not push. Managers often push their employees to do what the manager wants. Leaders gently pull with care and guidance. A late friend once showed my how that works with a rubber band as a visual. de

    • I bet that visual is eye opening. Seeing something like that always is.

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  • Ronnie

    Great post Joe, I learned this lesson about management and leadership the hard way. I recently attended a USAF Retirement ceremony this past Tuesday that brought this concept back to the forefront inspiring me to write about it although nowhere near as concise and hitting the nail on the head.

    • Ronnie, that was a great blog post. Thanks for sharing it with my readers. I hope they’ll get something out of it that I wasn’t able to express!

    • PS: Have you considered linking your blog to your Disqus account? It allows other commenters to easily click on your name and find your blog.

      • Ronnie

        Joe, I have the plugin but had a hard time getting it to show properly on my posts. I am still quite the newbie and don’t know how much I don’t know at this point.


      • ronnie0111

        I am up and running with Disqus now

        • Awesome Ronnie. I think you’ll really enjoy using this service.

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  • I have to disagree with this post a bit (yes, I know this is an old one). Not that the concepts of what you say are wrong, i just disagree with choosing the term “manager” and “managing” when what you are really saying is about “good” and “bad” leadership.

    I believe it’s really about leading well from where you are.

    I wrote this post to explain what i mean.

    • Hey Jason! Thanks for bringing this topic back up.

      You make some great points in your post. I think we use “manager” as a bad term because so many of us have faced horrible managers.

      Could there be a better term to use? That’s a good question.

      • I think “boss” could work as a substitute much of the time. But sometimes “good leader” and “bad leader” may be the best route.