As a professor of leadership and management and author of a bestselling leadership book, I get asked a lot

What's the difference between leadership and management?

Everyone gets that each is important.

Most people get that they overlap a lot.

Not many people can clarify the difference or why it matters.

Hence people find themselves leading when managing would get the results they want and vice versa.

It's like the difference between running and jogging. They're similar but different, each with advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes either will do, but when it counts, you want to do what delivers results best.

I'll amplify the differences to help clarify at the risk of oversimplifying.


Managers deal with behavior and things you can see.

Effective management results in compliance. The person you manage does what you instruct.

Managers' influence comes from authority. To improve as a manager, improve your ability to give instruction.


Leaders work with emotions and motivations. They are less tangible than behavior, but equally systematic.

Effective leadership results in desire. The person you lead wants to do what you motivate.

Leaders' influence comes from emotional and social skills. To improve as a leader, develop your social and emotional skills.

Key differences

Extreme cases help illuminate the difference.

Leadership without management is dreaming. A team with leadership but no management is lucky to get jobs done.

Management without leadership is the DMV--bureaucracy without passion. A team with management without leadership rarely excels, nor do people like working in it.

Key similarities

Both involve motivating and influencing others. But improve with experience. Both are necessary.

Which should you develop?

You don't personally need both, but a team with complex goals does.

If you lack one and the team needs it, you can find someone whose skills complement yours to do what you lack.