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Management vs leadership

What’s the difference between a manager and a leader? And how does management training differ from leadership development?

The answer isn’t as clear cut as you’d think.

A good place to start is how both terms are defined by our old friend, the Oxford English Dictionary.

Management: The act of running and controlling a business or similar organisation

Leadership: The act of leading a group of people or an organisation

Still not clear? Nor are we.

We asked Clare Mitchell, Director of Product at Ivy House, to help us out: “When anyone asks me what the difference between leadership and management is, the first thing I say is that we all have to do both, as we are both the leader and the manager of ourselves. Self-leadership and self-management is crucial. That said, you could define management as day-to-day execution, keeping things on track – or ‘doing things right.’

With leadership, it’s all about setting the vision and the plan, and then creating an environment that enables people to realise the plan and achieve the vision. You could call that ‘doing the right things.’”

Managers vs leaders

Whether you identify as a manager or a leader, you need to be able to do both effectively, and that might be to a greater or lesser extent depending on your role. Typically the more senior you become, the more likely the ratios from manager to leader start to swing.

When you first get promoted you’re often a team leader or a middle manager, and there is a lot more day-to-day execution, keeping things on track, ‘doing things right’.

As you get promoted up the ranks, your role moves away from management and more into leadership. Your role has more of a focus on vision, planning, and creating environments for other people to thrive – or ‘doing the right things’.

Traditionally, people don’t get treated as Leaders (with a capital L) until they are leading a business – but in fact we’re all self-leaders, and leaders of families, clubs, friendship groups; so wherever people are leading, the skills they need are important.

The training and development trap

A commonly held belief is that development is a linear process that starts with giving management training and on the job skills and then works up to leadership development only when someone becomes a senior leader. But it won’t have as big an impact if you only focus your leadership development here. You need people at all stages of leadership to have the skills and behaviours they need most; that underpin effective individuals and teams, that accelerate performance – and provide the critical backbone that sits at the heart of a successful organisation’s leadership culture.

Clare says “You’ll also find that all other training will become a whole lot easier if you invest in leadership development earlier in people’s careers. In fact, we see people seeking out their own development and identifying their own learning pathways after learning about 100% ownership or how to be a courageous learner, for example.” So rather than offering the ‘doing things right’ training first and then working up to leadership development when people have reached a certain level, building leadership development in to the foundations of your people’s development will reap the greater rewards.

Behavioural change

Whether you’re talking about leadership or management, the old behaviours aren’t working; needing to win, pursuing profit at all cost, having a game-face, knowing all the answers, never showing vulnerability.

At Ivy House, leadership development is very much about giving people the skills to lead oneself and others in a way that empowers everyone to reach their full potential – what we call the skill of Human Leadership. So no matter who, what or where your people lead, it’s about creating environments of meaning, growth and belonging, enabling people, organisations and societies to thrive.

Traditional leadership development programmes identify the desired skills and mindsets and then get stuck in trying to embed them. Problem is, it doesn’t work. It misses the foundation blocks of behavioural change. So, you spend a ton of money, gets some nice folders, and still have leaders that people don’t want to follow. Successful behavioural change leadership programmes need to have three critical building blocks in place: self-knowledge, self-empowerment, and self-leadership. Without either one of them, change will not happen. We’re in the business of human leadership and we create behavioral change.

Whilst there might be slightly different definitions of what management or leadership is, one thing is certain: if you have people in your organisation who lead a team or are in roles that involve looking after people, give them leadership development – you won’t regret it.


FAQs

Management involves overseeing operations, managing tasks, and ensuring that day-to-day activities are completed efficiently. Leadership, however, is about setting a vision, inspiring others to achieve shared goals, and fostering innovation. While management focuses on the mechanics, leadership is about influencing and motivating people to grow and succeed.

Brilliant leadership begins with self-awareness. A deep understanding of who you as a leader are, and what type of leader you were born to be. This should always be the first stage. Once leaders have this depth of self-knowledge, we are able to build on top of this the empowering skills that allow them to demonstrate great leadership behaviours. Skills such as building strong relationships, inspiring and influencing others, strategic thinking and creating a vision. The best leaders know that the learning never stops – that’s why Ivy House supports them with their ongoing development, beyond a leadership programme.

A successful behavioural change programme fosters genuine transformation by focusing on the individual’s motivations and capabilities. It involves a clear alignment with organisational goals, and cultural values. The programme should not only enhance skills but also instil a mindset that embraces continuous learning and change – creating leaders that are future fit.

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