The Difference Between Leadership and Management

By Chaufa Nguyen

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

What is the difference between leadership and management? Well, the boss has a title, but a title is a name used to describe someone’s job or position. It does not provide us with any context. We don’t know whether that individual is successful in their role or is the right fit.

“A boss has a title, a leader has the people.”

Simon Sinek

Let’s break down this inspirational quote by one of the greatest authors and teachers, Simon Sinek. His TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” is the third most-watched TED Talk in the history of TED talks. He is relatable and inspiring. He’s what every modern-day leader aspires to be and what every employee wishes to encounter.

In this example, all the title tells us is that this person is “the boss”. Nothing more, nothing less.

Defining Boss and Leader

A leader, by definition, is someone who leads. To lead means to show someone the way. A leader is someone who has the people because they show them the way.

They lead by example. The term “leader” provides us with context. When we think of a leader, we envision someone who is charismatic, honest, inspiring, engaging, and encouraging. We think of someone whose presence alone lifts everyone’s spirits.

I want to make the distinction between a boss and a leader very clear: A boss has a title, a leader has the people.

Whether you’re a business owner, manager, supervisor, or someone who wants to command more leadership in their role, you can be a boss or a leader. That decision is yours to make.

One role requires little to no conscious effort. There really are no expectations attached to the title of a “boss”. As I mentioned, this title provides us with no information on how good of a job this individual does.

A boss is merely someone who has authority, whether that be a positive or negative influence. The other role of a leader requires effort, intention, consistency, and, most certainly, energy.

Regardless of which role you choose for yourself, know that they inherently impact the livelihood of your employees tremendously. Having influence and impact is innately part of being a boss or leader, which can or cannot play out in your favor.

Employees Leaving Shows The Difference Between Leadership and Management

Why So Many Employees Leave

Researchers have found, time and time again, that employees leave bosses, not companies.

In a recent study conducted by Gallup, researchers polled over 1 million US workers. They found that 75% of workers who voluntarily quit their jobs left because of their direct supervisors or managers, not because of the jobs themselves.

Naturally, one would assume the greatest motive to leave a job is for a change in compensation, professional development, or organizational change. But no, 75%. That’s two-thirds of employees that left their job due to their direct managers.

This study, among many others, substantiates and validates the impact managers and supervisors have on their teams.

Owning Your Responsibility

The impact you have is non-negotiable. What you have power over is whether you choose to own that responsibility or not.

I believe the ownership of your influence and impact on your employees is the key determinant between a boss and a leader. When you commit to taking on the great responsibility of leading your team, guiding them, and showing them the way, you become a leader.

Leaders take pride in their employees and themselves. They do not take this responsibility lightly or for granted. They are grateful and appreciative to be able to have such a profound effect on their team and the success of the organization.

How you lead your team and the feelings you invoke in your employees are all contagious. You cause a ripple effect. You are the rock in a still body of water. Your actions and values permeate through to all your employees, which then becomes engrained in your workplace culture and organization as a whole.

A Leader Has the People

I hope I’ve provided you with insight and awareness of how vital your role is in your organization. Your role as a boss or a leader is critical in the trajectory of your employees. You directly impact their livelihood, their ability to do their jobs well, their morale, and ultimately, their longevity in your company.

Choose to be a leader, not just a boss.

Bosses have titles with sometimes unwarranted power and authority. Bosses expect respect and loyalty from their employees. Leaders earn that respect and admiration because of their actions and their follow-through. Leaders walk-the-talk. And what they expect of others, they also practice themselves.

A leader has the people. It is not just a title.

Make that conscious decision to be a leader. Be more for yourself and your team. 

What is the Difference between Leadership and Management?

If you have ideas about the difference between leadership and management that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Chaufa Nguyen
Chaufa Nguyen
Chaufa is a Workplace Consultant. She works with business owners to create companies where employees come to perform, and businesses where people want to buy. Her mission is to make workplaces happier and healthier for employees, and ultimately, more productive and profitable for employers. She resides in Vancouver, Canada and can be found nose-deep in a self-help book and coffee.
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