Is leadership different from management? To this perennial question we would like to put forward some thoughts and at the same time ask for your thoughts to help bring more clarity to the matter discussed.

A friend the other day pondered “I am a practising manager at this big company; Am I not a leader?” It depends, I answered. Some distinguishing differences between the manager’s work and the leader’s work, we make an effort to draw in the diagram below.

The top row of boxes and arrows shows a company as it moves strategically over the long term towards its mission and vision doing so by an exchange of stages between stable situations (rectangles) and motions (arrows) that entail its efforts to change. For each of the two types of stages, the characteristics of the needed work are analysed and grouped into two distinct boxes, one under the heading “leader’s work”, and the other under the heading “manager’s work”.


It is evident that what we grouped as manager’s and leader’s works have a different set of attributes and focus.

For example, one critical difference between them is the way they appeal to their people. Leaders appeal to people’s higher needs whereas managers like to interpret their world in terms of the more specific needs. So, self-actualization, prestige, love, and loyalty are a leader’s purview while rewards and remuneration, order and risk avoidance are the more mundane control area of the manager.

leader-manager-maslow-needsMaslow’s hierarchy of needs

NOTE: Leaders must themselves first possess the higher needs if they will be effective in invoking them when appealing to their employees.

To help a little further the discussion, we draw on earlier questions and statements on the subject by some recognized world authorities:

HBS professor Abraham Zaleznik in 1977 raised two Questions:

  • Are managers and leaders very different kinds of people?
  • Do they differ in motivation, personal history, and in how they think and act?

HBS professor John Kotter in 2001 proposed that
Management and Leadership are different but complementary, and that in a changing world, one cannot function without the other.

So finally, what do you think you are? A manager, or a leader, or both?


About the author: Panikos Sardos is the Managing Director of P&E Sardos Business Solutions Int., a management consulting firm that offers advisory services, coaching and training. You are welcome to communicate with us by email: or telephone: +357 99640912, +357 24400884, or visit us at