Leadership vs. Management, What’s the Difference?


The world's best teams use ProjectManager.com to collaborate and manage their work online. Try our award-winning software today and get 30 days free!

Get a Free 30-Day Trial of Our PM Software

Is leadership good and management bad? Of course not, both are important. But there is a difference, and we explain their roles in project management.

Our topic is surprisingly controversial. There are many who stand on one side or the other of the great divide between leadership and management, demonizing one and praising the other.

You don’t have to look far to find examples of either persuasive leaders who have done terrible things or efficient managers who lack the soft skills to lead and inspire. That’s why we want to focus on what the differences between the two are and why a combination of both is ideal.


What is leadership? It’s the action of leading a group towards a common goal. People who lead have three common attributes:

  1. They inspire others to share their vision.
  2. They motivate others to act on that vision.
  3. They encourage others and help them overcome obstacles in pursuit of that vision.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

10 Leadership Skills

Here is a list of the skills that make up great leadership. We know that there are more, but these are some of the core values of a strong leader:

  1. Communication: The ability to disseminate information and listen actively.
  2. Motivation: Getting people to want to do what you need them to do.
  3. Delegation: Knowing that you can’t do everything and trusting others to help you carry the load by completing assigned tasks.
  4. Positivity: Keeping a positive attitude, regardless of the situation, helps with morale.
  5. Trustworthiness: People aren’t going to listen to you or do what you ask if you don’t first instill a sense of trust.
  6. Creativity: There will always be problems that can’t be solved by rote; you must think creatively and be open to taking chances. Employ divergent thinking to find unique solutions.
  7. Feedback: Leadership doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Listen to your team, stakeholders, advisors, mentors, etc., and take their opinions seriously.
  8. Responsibility: You can’t expect people to follow you if you’re not taking responsibility for the bigger picture and your behavior.
  9. Commitment: You also cannot expect to lead others if you are not committed to the project.
  10. Flexibility: Things change, and rigidity can ruin a project, so you must be willing to adapt and not hold too tightly to anything.

Three Quintessential Leaders

Sometimes the best way to understand is to follow an example. What example could be more inspiring than these three great leaders?

  • Mahatma Gandhi was the leader of the Indian independence movement, using nonviolent civil disobedience to remove the yolk of British colonialism from his country. India is a large and diverse country, with many competing religions seeking power, yet he was able to rally the nation under one cause that made them blind to their differences and focused on what they all shared in common.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. took the lessons of Gandhi and applied them to address the injustice of the black population in the United States. He, like Gandhi, had many challenges, and not all involved in the civil rights movement shared his belief in nonviolence. However, as a Southern minister, he was able to use the social gospel to illustrate the second-class citizenry of black people in the United States in such a way that eventually couldn’t be ignored—even in the powerful halls of government.
  • Maria Theresa might not be a household name like the two other leaders on our list, but she earned her seat when she inherited rule of her country, Austria, in 1740. At that time, Austria was without funds and poorly governed. She gathered a team of skilled advisors and delegated responsibilities, turning around the economy, revitalizing the military and instituting mandatory public education for both boys and girls. Not even two wars could dethrone her, nor giving birth to 16 children!


What is management? It’s the process of dealing with or controlling things or people. But the emphasis does tend to be on things rather than people.

Managers are people who plan, organize and coordinate. They are methodical and are always reassessing their process to make sure they’re progressing as planned. If not, they tweak to get back to their baseline assessment.

Management consultant, educator and author Peter F. Druker, who said, “What’s measured gets improved.” So, you can see a difference in that managers approach things more systematically, seeking metrics and tools to measure their progress and adapt their process accordingly.

Top 10 Management Skills

To further highlight the differences and the complementary nature of leadership and management, we list 10 of what are considered the most important skills for any manager to have.

Related: How to Be a Good Manager

  1. Interpersonal Skills: While managers aren’t exclusively dealing with people, they still must interface with them, and the better they do so, the smoother the management process.
  2. Communications: Being able to manage is being able to communicate what you need to who needs to do it.
  3. Motivation: The same is true for motivating people to follow your management lead.
  4. Organization: You must be organized. Management is made up of many parts, and they cannot be handled on the fly.
  5. Delegation: No one can manage everything themselves, and if they try, they’re going to fail. So, share responsibilities and tasks with others.
  6. Forward Planning: A manager is a planner who looks towards the future and how to set themselves up for it today.
  7. Strategic Thinking: Part of that planning is thinking strategically about the project, the organization and how to align them moving forward.
  8. Problem Solving: Managers face issues daily, and they must think creatively to solve them.
  9. Commercial Awareness: Managers are not working in a vacuum and need to have a keen sense of the business and commercial environment in which they operate.
  10. Mentoring: In order to get things done, sometimes a manager must become a mentor, offering guidance or training where it’s needed.

Three Quintessential Managers

Just as there are great leaders, there are great managers. In fact, often the successful managers are more heralded than political leaders, as if their successes were somehow more relevant. They’re not, of course, but they deserve their due. Here are three of the best.

  • Henry Ford was the man we can thank for launching car culture, a dubious distinction but one to note. As a manager, however, his influence might even be more widespread. His approach to production was every bit as revolutionary as his approach to locomotion. He managed to increase efficiencies and lower the cost of materials and the final product.
  • Madam C.J. Walker was an African-American woman who in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries developed and sold hair products targeting the neglected needs of an underserved demographic, Africian-American woman, like herself. That she was a gifted manager, who saw a niche and knew how to exploit it, wasn’t enough. She also had to manage a deeply racist culture.
  • Walt Disney has become a towering figure in global entertainment, but he started as a cartoonist. There are just so many comic strips you can draw, though, and he was able to tap the talent he recognized and manage it to work as a team, creating some of the most iconic characters the world has ever seen.

How ProjectManager.com Helps Leaders and Managers

You probably have noticed that many of the skills for leadership and management are the same. Not all of them, but enough to build a Venn diagram where the best leaders and managers meet in the middle. One thing they have in common is the need for a powerful, flexible and dynamic tool to help them get their work done.

ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that gives leaders and managers real-time data to make better decisions. Our real-time dashboard collects six project metrics and displays them in easy-to-read graphs and charts. They can be shared for stakeholder presentations to keep everyone updated on the progress of the project.

real time project dashboards in ProjectManager.com
ProjectManager.com’s dashboard enhances leadership and management.

With our team section, everyone’s work can be seen on one page. Their tasks are prioritized by color and icons. If you need to reassign a team member it can be done from the team section by simply dragging and dropping, even people who are in multiple teams. You can even invite new people and create profiles that list their skills and more.

Team work management panel
The Team section makes work management easier than ever.

You can track your team’s progress from timesheets as they update them. See the percentage complete they are on their tasks, and when they’re ready to submit the timesheet it’s only one click. So is approving them and getting the paperwork moving forward.

ProjectManager.com is built for leaders, managers and team alike. See how it can help you steer your next project towards a successful end by taking this free 30-day trial today.

Pro-Tip: Every leader and manager worth their salt knows that they can always work towards improving their skills. There are many leadership and management programs online and at schools, and there’s likely at least one to suit your needs and your schedule.

Take it Further: Whether you’re a leader or a manger, you’re always going to want to push your company and your team to grow. Learn how transformational leadership can do just that.

Leadership and Management Video

ProjectManager.com is one of the best project management resource libraries online. We have hundreds of industry-related blog posts and training videos. In the following, Jennifer Bridges, PMP, walks you through the definitions for both leadership and management, and explains how the two differ from one another, in this short tutorial video.


Today we’re talking about leadership versus management and what’s the difference. Well, I’ll tell you. This topic sure can stir up a crowd because you have some people who think leadership is great and management is bad and vice versa.

But the truth is, we probably all know examples of leaders who were very influential, who have really done some really bad things in the world. We can also think of probably some managers who were great and vice versa.

So today I wanna look at both of these and we wanna sort through. We wanna see what the differences are and I think you’ll see why we really need a combination of both if we’re managing projects or trying to get some kind of initiative done for our company.

So let’s talk about first, leadership and look at what leadership is. So leadership is the action of leading a group towards a common goal. If you think about, you’ve heard that leaders lead people, they inspire, they motivate, and they encourage.

So here’s a quote that I love by Dwight D. Eisenhower, it says, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it.” I think that’s a great quote and sums up leadership very well.

So you can look through all kinds of leadership material, but I like the outline of these top 10 leadership skills.

Number one, communication. Being able to communicate effectively with the group.

Number two, motivation. It requires a lot of motivation to get people to do what they don’t want to do.

Delegation, being able to delegate things that are best suited for someone else.

Positivity, keeping people positive, probably sometimes in the worst of things.

Trustworthiness, being able for your people you’re leading to trust you.

Creativity, there are most times when we’re trying to do a project or initiative where things constantly change, so it’s important to be creative and think through solutions and roadblocks.

Feedback, being able to receive feedback but also give feedback constructively without offending anyone but being able to help them.

Number eight, responsibility. Taking the responsibility for actions and getting things done.

Also, commitment. Once committing to something, sticking through the thick and thin until the end.

And then ten, flexibility. Again, knowing that any project or initiative things we do likely are going to have changes, so being able to be flexible to look at different angles and consider changing course when we need to.

Okay, now let’s look at management. So where leadership was the ability to lead people, this is the process of dealing with or controlling things or people. So where leadership is leading people, management is managing things.

So managers, they plan, they organize and they coordinate.

Here’s a quote by Peter Drucker, and you can’t really argue with his management. He’s one of the leading leadership and management thinkers of our time. It’s, “What’s measured gets improved.”

So again, looking at some of the skills of managers here, just, you know, there are many, but here are some of the top 10 skills.

So number one, interpersonal skills, being able to communicate with people at having great soft skills.

Number two, communication. Again, like leaders, they have to communicate effectively through written, oral and other types of communication.

Number three, motivation. Although managers are trying to get things done, there’s also the component of motivating people to get the task and activities done.

Organization, being able to plan out, organize and coordinate things for the plan.

Number five, delegation. Again, it takes a skill to be able to delegate appropriately to the right people.

Number six, forward planning, always thinking ahead where are we going next.

Number seven, strategic thinking, looking at the big picture and then being able to take that through and fill out the details.

Number eight, problem-solving. Again, most anything we do with projects or initiatives, things are always changing, problems always arise. So having the capability to problem solve is essential.

Number nine, commercial awareness. That’s really understanding the industry, the market that you’re in or that the manager is in and understanding how that impacts how the economy and all kinds of financial situations can change and impact things.

And also ten is mentoring. So a manager getting people to get things done, sometimes they may need additional training or mentoring and they’re really good at that.

So as you can see, some of the communication, motivation, delegation, some of these skills are different or the same, but you can see where leadership and management vary.

So if you need a resource for additional information on leadership and management skills, then sign up for our software now at ProjectManager.com.

(This post was updated December 2019)