Difference between management and leadership

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By Goke Ilesanmi


It is common to talk about leaders in Nigeria, for instance. But we have in most cases rulers not leaders, especially that our society has not really had the expected development. In the corporate environment, there are many managers but few leaders. That is why many organisations are not making any headway today.


Critical management elements

Five basic elements are critical to the success of any organisation. These are quality or unique product; proper timing; adequate capital; people resources; and effective management.  Among these five prerequisites, the most important one is the fifth one, that is, effective management.

According to W. Steven Brown, author of “13 Fatal Errors Managers Make”, “If you lack the fifth element, you will not have the first four. Why? Take a look at the influence the final one will have on the first four. Without effective management, correct decisions cannot be made about the product’s features and the proper time for its introduction into the marketplace. The company lacking proper management cannot acquire, much less sustain adequate capital. Above all, it takes good management to attract the best people and to coach and develop them….”




One thing that is especially central to leadership success is influence. In the words of John Maxwell, a leadership expert, “Leaders have only their influence to aid them…Followers in voluntary organisations cannot be forced to get on board. If the leader has no influence with them, then they won’t follow.” Great leaders never desire to lead but to serve. Myles Munroe also reinforces this assertion by saying, “Leadership is the ability to lead others by influence. If this principle holds true, then we have all exercised some degree of leadership in our lives.”

  The end product of leadership is reproduction also referred to multiplication. Here, we talk about stages of leadership influence which are modelling, motivation, mentoring and multiplication. By modelling, we mean followers or subordinates will do things the way do you not according to what you say. So if you are a corporate leader, and you fail to walk the talk by treading the path of morality for instance, people will not take your talk seriously but will rather do what you do. From modelling, we get to motivation level. This is about a leader inspiring the followers or subordinates. From motivation, the leader can become more involved in the followers by mentoring them. Reproduction or multiplication refers to a level when the leader has taught followers or subordinates all they need to know and they can be on their own.

For you to be an effective or successful leader, you need to maintain a high level of integrity. But integrity is a vanishing commodity today because personal standards are crumbling in a world that has taken to hot pursuit of personal pleasure and shortcuts to success. Our system of values is so much a part of us that we cannot separate it from ourselves.


If we use the symbolism of ship-sailing for instance, leadership guides by setting a ship’s course while management keeps a hand on the tiller. In the words of Eric Garnerx, a management consultant, “The difference between management and leadership is like the difference between male and female, sun and moon, night and day, fat and thin, hot and cold, coming and going, and so on. They are two sides to the same coin. In being the one, we see the other. While different and distinct, they are parts of the whole: essential contrasts, that in contrasting, make clearer the other. It is often difficult to understand the difference between managers and leaders. Do managers lead? Do leaders manage?

    “A person in the enterprise is described by their name and title, measured by their output, listed in the database according to their skills and added in the accounts under the heading ‘manpower resources’. Management deals with the past and how people performed to date. Leadership, on the other hand, sees people as capable of things you cannot measure and doing things they never thought possible. It deals with the future and how people could perform if their potential were realised.”

Left and right sides of the brain

 Research shows that management and leadership can be differentiated as regards brains. We were taught in the Psycholinguistics class in those days that the left hemisphere of the brain is the seat of our logical and rational thinking; while the right brain is the seat of our imaginative, creative and emotional thinking. (Note: Psycholinguistics or Psychology of Language is the study of the psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, use and understand language.)

Let us go back to our main discussion. While these two sides of the brain are distinct, they also work best as a whole. Experts say the left brain is an analogy for management. It deals with what can be counted; details; control; domination; worldly interests; action; analysis; measurement; and order. The right brain is an analogy for leadership. It deals with what cannot be counted; seeing things as a whole; synthesis; possibilities; belief; vision; artistry; intuition; and imagination.

Strategy and others

Richard Pascale, a management expert educates that the processes that take place in organisations fall under seven “S” headings. That is, Strategy, Structure, Systems, Shared values, Staff, Skills and Style. The functions of strategy, structure and systems are the hard S’s and the proper concern of managers because they deal with things or technology. The functions of staff, skills, style and shared values are the soft S’s and the proper concern of leaders because they deal with people.

Intellectual comparison

 John Adair in his book “Leadership” compares management and leadership to the old dichotomy of Art and Science. Managers are of the mind, accurate, calculated, routine, statistical, methodical. Therefore, management is a science. Leaders are of the spirit, compounded of personality and vision. Therefore, leadership is an art. Managers are necessary while leaders are essential.

Last words

On a note of analytical finality, organisations that need quick fixes rely on managers while those that want to achieve enduring growth rely on leaders. Just as we advised last week during the discussion of Why teamwork fails in most organisations, make the right choice for your personal and corporate survival today.

GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant/CEO  of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is a Certified Public Speaker/Emcee,  Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker, Career Management Coach, Renowned Book Reviewer, Corporate Leadership Expert and Editorial Consultant.


Tel: +234(0)8056030424; +234(0)8187499425

Email:  gokeiles2010@gmail.com; info@gokeilesanmi.com.ng

Website: www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng




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