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What is leadership within professional environments - and how does it differ from management?

What is leadership within professional environments - and how does it differ from management? There have been whole books written on the nuances, but in a nutshell: a manager plans, organises and coordinates a group a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal, whereas a leader influences, inspires, motivates, and enables others to contribute to achieving organisational aims and success (Murray, n.d.). This definition does not preclude a manager being a leader, or a leader also being a manager. Rather they are overlapping, complementary roles.

If you are going to work on leadership or management skills, it is worth unpacking this a bit more, and identifying some of the key differences.

A manager...

A leader...

administers and plans detail

innovates and sets direction

directs groups

builds teams and talent

maintains and communicates

persuades and develops

focuses on systems and structures                   

focuses on people

controls and directs

Inspires, influences and facilitates

short-term view

long-term perspective

asks how and when

asks why

has objectives and are focussed

has vision and creates shared focus

accepts the status quo

challenges the status quo

react to change

create change

have people who work for them

have people who work with them

René Carayol (2011), suggests that we “manage a little less and lead a little more”, because the positive culture (‘the way we get things done around here’) within an organisation is much more powerful than strategy. Also, while organisations can have similar strategies, the thing that makes an organisation unique is its culture.

So, while management and leadership go hand-in-hand, supporting the growth of leaders within an organisation can help ensure that an organisation’s heritage is not its destiny - that opinions and processes change because the culture is supportive of that change.


Carayol, R. (2011). Authentic leadership [Video file]. Retrieved from

<Murray, A. (n.d.). What is the Difference Between Management and Leadership? Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from


Juggling balls. CC ( BY ) licensed Flickr image by William Warby:

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