Leadership vs. Management: Comparative Analysis

Management and leadership are two closely related concepts that, however, bear significant differences from each other. The former ensures stability in the organization focusing on the monitoring of different work processes, whereas the latter is utilized to promote positive change and guide and inspire employees. This paper will contrast leadership and management, outline several management techniques and leadership competencies, and describe and compare two leadership theories.

To begin with, management is often attributed to a particular set of skills while leadership is believed to be connected to the inner traits of a person’s character. Schermerhorn et al. (2020) highlight three key management techniques: agenda setting, networking, and gaining social capital. The first technique helps “develop action priorities that include goals and plans spanning long and short time frames”, whilst the second “building and maintaining positive relationships with people whose help may be needed to implement those agendas” (Schermerhorn et al., 2020, p. 14). Finally, social capital is related to the networking technique and enables managers to utilize existing relationships for the benefit of the agendas and the organization.

In turn, Northouse (2021) identifies three main leadership competencies: intelligence, self-confidence, and determination. Intelligence is often associated with high levels of IQ, emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills, self-confidence allows to be certain in one’s competence and, thus, influence others, while determination reflects leader’s initiative and persistence. Finally, if one were to consider a health care situation such as a pandemic, a manager would be responsible for as many patients as possible to be treated presently. Simultaneously, a leader would make sure that the organization was more equipped for the next epidemic in the future.

As far as leadership theories are concerned, two of the most popular leadership styles are identified as transformational and transactional. Northouse defines transformational leadership as a “process that changes and transforms people… concerned with emotions, values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals… includes assessing followers’ motives, satisfying their needs, and treating them as full human beings” (2021, p. 171). In contrast, transactional leadership is concerned with achieving short-term goals and, instead of focusing on positive transformation in the workforce, it often employs a rewards and punishments system for improving employee engagement.

The two theories are similar in the sense that they both provide motivation for the employees to work at their limit and unlock their potential. Nevertheless, transformational leadership requires significantly more involvement, empathy and emotional intelligence in the process, while transactional leadership utilizes more straight-forward and calculated approaches. For example, if one were to consider two situations – a single nurse lacking motivation and engagement and a nursing team not reaching the expected KPIs, the two theories would employ differing tactics of solving those problems. A transformational leader would try to assess the underlying causes of the employee’s lack of engagement and guide and reorganize the working team by being the role model the team members aspire to be. On the other hand, a transactional leader would try to motivate the employee with simple tools such as a raise or a promotion and notify the team that there would be job cuts if KPIs were not achieved again.

In conclusion, leadership and management are two interrelated disciplines that differ in the approaches and the key characteristics and skills required for the roles. A manager is concerned with retaining the status quo whereas a leader strives to challenge it and bring positive impact. In turn, a transactional leader ensures the short-term effectiveness of the work done with the use of various rewards and punishments whilst a transformational leader suggests a long-term vision and necessary changes for the improvement of the employees’ efficiency and engagement.


Northouse, P. G. (2021). Leadership: Theory and practice (9th ed.). Sage.

Schermerhorn, J. R. Jr., Bachrach, D. G. and Wright, B. (2020). Management (5th ed.). Wiley.

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