Leadership versus Management: What is the difference?

The words leadership and management are often used interchangeably. However, they are not synonymous. Management is more closely associated with directing another person to get from one point to another using a known set of expected behaviours. In contrast, leadership involves working with others through discussion or debate in order to guide them from one point to another.

The method that a project manager chooses to employ reveals a distinct difference in behaviour, self-perception, and project role. Table 1 compares management and leadership on several important levels.

Table 1: Management and Leadership Compared

Source: PMI

Project managers need to employ both leadership and management in order to be successful. The skill is in finding the right balance for each situation. The way in which management and leadership are employed often shows up in the project manager's leadership style.

Project managers may lead their teams in many ways. The leadership style a project manager selects may be a personal preference, or the result of the combination of multiple factors associated with the project. The leadership style a project manager uses may change over time based on the factors in play. Major factors to consider are:

  • Leader characteristics (e.g. attitudes, moods, needs, values, ethics)
  • Team member characteristics (e.g. attitudes, moods, needs, values, ethics)
  • Organizational characteristics (e.g. its purpose, structure, and type of work performed)
  • Environmental characteristics (e.g. social situation, economic state, and political elements).

Research describes numerous leadership styles that a project manager can adopt:

  • Laissez-faire (e.g. allowing the team to make their own decisions and establish their own goals, also referred to as taking a hands-off style)
  • Transactional (e.g. focus on goals, feedback, and accomplishment to determine rewards; management by exception)
  • Servant leader (e.g. demonstrates commitment to serve and put other people first; focuses on other people's growth, learning, development, autonomy, and well¬being; concentrates on relationships, community and collaboration; leadership is secondary and emerges after service)
  • Transformational (e.g. empowering followers through idealized attributes and behaviours, inspirational motivation, encouragement for innovation and creativity, and individual consideration);
  • Charismatic (e.g. able to inspire; is high-energy, enthusiastic, self-confident; holds strong convictions)
  • Inter-actional (e.g. a combination of transactional, transformational, and charismatic).

Learn more about this subject by joining ProjectPro’s next Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification workshop on 23-23 August 2017 in Gauteng. Registeron www.projectpro.co.za or contact training@projectpro.co.za. ProjectPro is a Registered Education Provider with the Project Management Institute.


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