Leadership vs. Management Styles

Is there a difference between a manager and a leader?  Although they share similarities, there are clear differences between the two.  According to Michael Maccoby (2000), a world-renowned expert in leadership, “Management is a function that must be exercised in any business, leadership is a relationship between leader and led that can energize an organization.”

Leadership Pic

Both roles are crucial in an organisation, however, all too often, the two terms are used interchangeably.  It is important to understand the similarities and differences between the two.

Kris Parfitt (2009), Operations Manager at Lenati, points out several comparable characteristics between good managers and good leaders, all of which aim to encourage commitment, action and personal growth: taking responsibility, active listening, consideration and courtesy, open communication, demonstrating intellectual and emotional aptitude, good judgment, open mindedness, and a focus on immediate, intermediate and long-term achievement, as well as others.

While there are many obvious similarities between the two roles, the differences outweigh the similarities.  Effective leaders and managers often have different personality styles.  Leaders are frequently described as brilliant, courageous, charismatic, risk takers, aloof, imaginative and especially motivating.  Their ideas of success typically focus on achievements.  Managers, on the other hand, are often described as rational, problem-solvers, goal oriented, persistent, analytical and intelligent.  Managers’ ideas of success generally center on results.

According to Kotter (2012), the table below describes the typical approaches to tasks for managers and leaders.



Planning and budgeting Creating vision and strategy
Organising and staffing Communicating and setting direction
Controlling and problem solving Motivating action
Taking complex systems of people and technology and making them run efficiently and effectively, hour after hour, day after day

Creating systems that managers can manage and transforming them when needed to allow for growth, evolution, opportunities, and hazard avoidance

  Aligning people

“A management model is the choices made by a company’s top executives regarding how they define objectives, motivate effort, coordinate activities and allocate resources; in other words, how they define the work of management,” (Birkinshaw and Goddard 2009). When describing management techniques, three models stand out: Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y, Max Weber’s Principles of Bureaucracy and Henri Fayol’s Principles of Management.

McGregor, a social psychologist, thought that there were two types of employees; those who dislike work, are unambitious and avoid responsibility (Theory X) and those who are relatively self-motivated and use their intellect and creativity in working toward organisational objectives without external pressure and who readily accept responsibility (Theory Y). Supervising Theory X employees requires an “authoritarian management style” which uses directives and punishment threats as motivation. Supervising Theory Y employees entails a “participative management style” which offers recognition and rewards as motivation. I believe today’s management should have the flexibility to use an appropriate combination of both depending on the personality of the employee. McGregor’s theory is too black and white and most employees fall somewhere on the continuum between these two extremes (Manktelow 2014).

McGregor Theory X and Theory Y

Weber, a founding figure of modern sociology, introduced his Theory of Bureaucracy in the late 1800’s, advocating that organisations should manage employees in an impersonal and hierarchical way, with strict rules, regulations and division of labour. The following video describes his theory in greater detail:

While there are advantages to Weber’s theory such as rapid decision making and working efficiently, I think the disadvantages outweigh them. In this type of organisation, individuals who are self-motivated and enjoy using their intellect and creativity (the majority of people, according to McGregor) would be demoralised and dissatisfied. Under these conditions, innovation and teamwork is discouraged and the organisation would be less able to adapt to changing business conditions.

Fayol, often referred to as the father of management, first introduced his 14 Principles of Management in 1916. They explain how managers should organise and relate to their employees in a productive manner. The 14 principles are listed and described in the table below (Manktelow 2014).

Fayol Principles of Management

Even though current managers find Fayol’s principles common sense, they paved the way for successful management in the early 1900’s. His theory serves as the foundation for many future management theorists. It is still considered the most comprehensive and is offered as a reference to assist managers today.

Because no two people are alike, effective managers must be able to employ a variety of management styles depending on the personality of the individual being managed. It is important for managers to understand what motivates each employee and implement the style that maximises their productivity.

Of these three managerial theories, and my research on others, I would want to be managed using a combination of Fayol’s principles and McGregor’s “participative management style” because I’m self-motivated and enjoy applying my ingenuity and creativity. Since I desire a limited amount of direction, I find a democratic leadership style more motivating than an autocratic or laissez-faire one.

I leave you with this video of quotes from some of history’s greatest leaders.  I hope you find it as inspirational as I do!


Birkinshaw, J. and Goddard, J. (2009) What is Your Management Model? [online] available from <http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/what-is-your-management-model/> [25 May 2014]

Kotter, J. (2012) Change Leadership [online] available from <http://www.kotterinternational.com/our-principles/change-leadership> [26  2014]

Maccoby, M. (2000) Understanding the Difference Between Management and Leadership [online] available from <http://www.maccoby.com/Articles/UtDBMaL.shtml> [26 May 2014]

Manktelow, J. (2014) Henri Fayol’s Principles of Management [online] available from <http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/henri-fayol.htm> [25 May 2014]

Manktelow, J. (2014) Theory X and Theory Y: Understanding Team Member Motivation [online] available from <http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_74.htm> [26 May 2014]

Parfitt, K. (2009) Are Leadership and Management the Same Thing? [online] available from <http://careerrocketeer.com/2009/08/are-leadership-and-management-the-same-thing.html> [26 May 2014]

Sentenn Capital Investments (2009) Great Quotes from Great Leaders [online] available from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCE_9hoRWlk> [25 May 2014]

Vonteese, D. (2013) Bureaucracy Max Weber’s Theory of Impersonal Management Free Principles of Management [online] available from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiKa9BHS5c0&list=PLpamLSgDwJ3egdH5VFZ6PiRc4zDpPc_Wt> [25 May 2014]


8 thoughts on “Leadership vs. Management Styles

  1. You compare leaders and and managers in your article. Would you say leaders are more often the dreamer type of person than managers, considering that managers are more goal oriented and rational than leaders?

  2. What kind of organization is Lenati? Sounds like it would be fun to work there. The video in your blog with the quotes from great leaders was cool. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I agree that managers should use different approaches to manage different staff but don’t you think that managers can be overly considerate of their staff’s feelings and be bad leaders as a result? Sometimes it just takes a strong person to say OK this is how this needs to be done to get things done.

    • Yes, mendosa1976, sometimes that approach works best. It is extremely important for both managers and leaders to understand who they’re working with, what their personality is and what the best way to motivate and influence them is. Sometimes the approach you suggest works best, but sometimes a more open and “give and take” approach is better, even if it takes a little longer to get started. Thanks for your comment!

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