Wilson College Online Blog

Management vs. Leadership: Similarities and Differences

Written by: Wilson College   •  May 21, 2024
A department manager shakes hands with a team member sitting at a table.

Both managers and leaders in business are responsible for overseeing employees, training new hires, setting strategic goals, and motivating others to achieve success. But while they share many commonalities, management and leadership have significantly different roles. Individuals who are considering earning a business degree and pursuing advanced professional roles can benefit from understanding the differences between the two.

What Is Management?

In business, management refers to the professionals who oversee a team of employees who (usually) work in the same department. Managers may have administrative duties, but often their duties extend beyond those tasks.

Manager’s tasks include delegating specific duties to team members and directing them toward achieving the company’s objectives. Managers supervise their team members’ progress, ensuring their tasks are completed as directed and, if necessary, stepping in to offer guidance and assistance.

Key Duties of Management

A manager’s day involves various tasks that include holding one-on-one meetings with their team members to discuss current and future goals and to swap feedback with them. Feedback is especially important since it helps employees improve their performance and engagement, which can ultimately lead to better results.

Managers also meet with other managers and leaders in other departments. During these meetings, they gain insight into each department’s performance and learn about new technology, staff, and/or policy changes.

Management’s additional duties include the following:

  • Overseeing their team members’ tasks
  • Hiring and firing staff members
  • Turning concepts into tangible objectives
  • Setting timelines for strategies and goals
  • Managing budgets for their team
  • Explaining policies and procedures to staff members

What Is Leadership?

In business, leadership refers to the professionals who guide a group of individuals or an entire organization toward successful outcomes. Leaders serve as the heads of companies and of specific departments, and they include C-suite executives who make important decisions about the company’s direction. Leaders are often responsible for communicating the company’s goals to the management team, who will develop appropriate strategies to achieve these goals.

While directors and executives are always considered leaders, other employees in an organization, including managers, can act as leaders by inspiring their team members to do their best.

Key Duties of Leadership

Leaders are responsible for the following tasks:

  • Motivating employees
  • Rallying staff members to reach goals
  • Modeling the company’s core values
  • Resolving conflicts involving staff members or vendors
  • Making hiring and firing decisions

Types of Leadership

There are several types of leadership styles a leader can employ. Some leaders change their leadership approach depending on the goal they are trying to achieve and the specific employees they are working with. Others change their leadership style or combine a few to create a hybrid style as the company grows. Following are the four most common types of leadership styles:

  • Autocratic: Autocratic leadership is results driven. Leaders using this approach often delegate duties to specific staff members and expect them to follow directions without hesitation.
  • Democratic: Democratic leadership is inclusive, focusing on collaboration and shared decision-making. Leaders adopting this style encourage input from other decision-makers and feedback when necessary.
  • Transformative: Transformative leadership emphasizes shared goals. Transformative leaders motivate team members to rally behind their vision.
  • Servant: Servant leadership prioritizes the needs of team members over those of the leader. Leaders adopting this style focus on their team’s well-being and development, resulting in increased productivity.

Similarities Between Management and Leadership in Business

Although management and leadership have distinct roles in business, they intersect in certain areas. For instance, leaders require strong management skills to run an organization effectively. Similarly, managers need leadership qualities to motivate and inspire their team members to enhance their productivity.

The two also share the following qualities:

  • A growth-oriented mindset
  • A focus on future goals
  • The ability to communicate effectively
  • The ability to explain a company’s vision
  • The ability to identify weaknesses and create solutions to repair them

Businesses need leaders and managers to grow. Those possessing both managerial and leadership skills can be successful in a wide range of senior-level positions. 

Differences Between Management and Leadership in Business

Management and leadership differ in certain key ways. While leaders need to create a long-term vision for their company, managers must develop short-term goals and tasks to bring this vision to fruition.

Other ways in which they differ include:

  • Leaders oversee each manager in their organization. Managers oversee employees in a single department. 
  • Leaders make decisions that affect the entire organization. Managers make decisions that affect their department. 
  • Leaders are generally proactive, setting future goals that will drive the company forward. Managers are often reactive, working hard to create solutions to known problems.
  • Leaders must be masters at flexibility and adaptability to keep their company competitive. Managers need to be structured and process-driven to get the job done.

The most significant difference between management and leadership is their overall perspective. Leadership focuses on the future, while management focuses on the present.

Begin a Career in Management or Leadership

Are you ready to take the lead? If so, begin your journey by enrolling in a business management program.

Wilson College Online offers an array of online business degree programs such as the Bachelor of Arts in Business Management, Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications, and Master of Organizational Leadership programs. Coursework in these programs can help you lay the foundation for a successful career in business, no matter what position you want to pursue. Learn marketing, ethics, and communications skills to gain a competitive edge. And the best part is that you can learn at your own pace. Discover what you can do with a business degree from Wilson College Online today.

Recommended Readings:

Management Analyst: Salary, Job Description, and Requirements

What Can You Do With a Business Management Degree?

Training and Development Manager: Salary and Job Description


Forbes, “There Is No Difference Between Managers and Leaders”

Indeed, “The Difference Between Management and Leadership”

Indeed, “How Are Management and Leadership Similar? (With Tips)”

Indeed, “Leadership Traits: 10 Top Qualities of Effective Leaders”

Indeed, “Management and Leadership: The Differences and Similarities”

Learn more about the benefits of receiving
your degree from Wilson College Online
Get More Information