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  • Writer's pictureIrina Ketkin

Management vs Leadership Development

"Hi team, I am looking for leadership training for my team. They are all new in their roles and have little experience managing other people. Can you help?"

We receive these types of emails monthly. And we always get excited at the prospect of designing a new learning intervention, but it does prompt a few exploratory questions first.

Management and leadership development are two concepts that are often confused. They might sound similar, but there's a lot of difference between the two in reality. So let's see what's true about management and Leadership development by looking at the actual meaning of these concepts individually before comparing them.

Table of contents:

What is Management?

Management is a set of processes that keep the organization functioning. These are things like planning, budgeting, staffing, and monitoring performance. A manager would be responsible for clarifying who's doing what, solving problems, providing feedback, and giving instructions.

Consider a grocery store manager. They are responsible for the day-to-day operation. This could mean scheduling the shifts, organizing the stocking of shelves, ensuring each station is well staffed throughout the day, and ordering more inventory. They make sure that every department is running smoothly and efficiently. They are also responsible for the people and resources. This includes hiring new employees, managing current employees, developing their skills and expertise so they can do their jobs better, firing employees who aren't pulling their weight (or don't fit in with the culture), and making sure everyone understands what they need to get done daily.

Management aims to answer, "How are we doing this?", "How many people are needed?", "How long will it take?", "How much will it cost?", etc.

What is Leadership?

Leadership is about people. It refers to rallying followers to a common vision, getting their buy-in, motivating and inspiring them to achieve extraordinary things. It's about leading by example and being a coach, a mentor, or a role model—someone who helps others find the best in themselves and bring it out into the world for everyone to see.

The best leaders make people around them become better versions of themselves by encouraging them to share their ideas, take risks, speak up when they disagree with something (even if it means they'll have to admit they're wrong), stand up for what they believe in even if no one else agrees with them right away… in short: lead by example!

Leadership aims to answer the questions, "Why are we doing this?", "Why are we selling this product or service?", "Why are we here today?", etc.

Is every leader a manager?

Some think that to be a leader, you also have to be a manager. But that is not quite the case. Leadership isn't just for CEOs or presidents anymore; it can be practiced at every level of an organization—and it definitely should be!

History has seen many instances where a leader emerges without a rank or a title. Think of Spartacus of ancient Greece or, more recently, Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. These people didn't hold official management titles. And yet people followed them because they trusted them and felt inspired by them.

This doesn't mean that the management and leadership roles are mutually exclusive. But let's face it - when it comes to the corporate world, most managers are expected to be great leaders too. And that begs the question…

What skills do great managers and leaders need?

Let's try a quick experiment. Get a piece of paper and write down the answer to these four questions:

  1. Who has been the best manager you've worked with?

  2. What is it you admire about them?

  3. What did they do to set you up for success? and

  4. In what situations did their style work best?

You can also download a simple template we've prepared to note down your answers.

These questions probably gave you at least some ideas about what a good manager or leader does and says.

By definition, a good manager has excellent planning and organizational skills. And a great leader motivates and inspires their followers. But you already knew that.

Here is a list of some key competencies required in each role. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.


  • Planning and organizing work and staff

  • Monitoring performance

  • Managing administrative work

  • Managing budgets

  • Communicating with stakeholders

  • Problem-solving

  • Managing time


  • Coaching and mentoring

  • Developing others

  • Developing strong networks and partnerships

  • Fostering creativity and innovation

  • Building consensus

  • Introducing and managing change

  • Creating an appealing vision for the future

  • Inspiring others to achieve this future vision

  • Recognizing signs of demotivation and improving it

Again, where the roles overlap, you would find people whose job is to integrate all (and more) of these skills.

Management vs. Leadership development?

At this point, you may be wondering: "Is leadership development different than management development?". And the answer is "Yes". The difference comes from the definitions we examined earlier.

Management development aims to upskill in traditionally managerial tasks, like planning, organizing, and monitoring.

Leadership development focuses more on psychological elements of human behaviors.

For example, a management development program would focus on things like:

  • time management,

  • communication skills,

  • conflict resolution,

  • project management, and

  • policies and processes.

A leadership program would prioritize topics like:

  • human personalities,

  • influence and persuasion,

  • motivation,

  • delegation and empowerment.

Again, this distinction rarely lives separated like that in the real world. Most development programs integrate both. More junior learners are usually upskilled in management competencies, and as their careers progress, they focus more and more on leadership.


Management development and leadership development are two different things. However, both are necessary for business success. While the latter may be more challenging to implement, it offers greater rewards in the long run. Many people believe that there should be more emphasis on developing leaders rather than managers if we want to see improvements in organizational performance. But you should always focus on both and understand how one approach can complement the other to create a winning team.

How do you go about developing your manager and leaders? Let us know in the comments below, or tag us on social media.


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