There seems to be an ongoing debate about leadership vs. management and supervision.

Do you think they are exclusively different, one in the same, or are they related and inter-mingled?

Based on your experiences, what thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions do you have in the leadership vs. management debate?

Let’s talk about this for a moment. I often ask my audiences to complete these three sentence stems:

Management is…

Supervision is…

Leadership is…

Both leaders and managers are held accountable on performance. Both lead and manage people and influence others, right?

Management and Supervision

Managers seem to get things done.

They and their direct reports take credit for specific projects and revenue streams. Supervision is the direction of people at work while management is the planning and control of the work process, yes?

Supervision is giving employees specific instructions on what is to be done, monitoring their efforts and holding them accountable for specific results.

Management is developing a goal for what is to be done.

Key components of a management goal are:

  • A plan to get the work done
  • How work will be broken down into steps
  • How much time each step will take
  • The sequence in which it should be done and resources needed
  • Monitoring the plan to see that the work goes according to the plan
  • Taking corrective action on anything that deviates from the original plan

Managers vs. Leaders

Leaders seem to do well at giving direction or expectations to excel.

Whereas managers maintain systems and processes, leaders influence people to follow, right?

Managers say they know more about the functions of the business and without them the leaders would falter. The leaders say that they’re not supposed to focus on daily functions.

Instead, they should focus on the future and road ahead. Managers focus on how to get there, whereas leaders state where to go.

Leaders say that they build followers who choose to follow regardless of how much they make.

Managers counter with “just because they follow you, doesn’t mean they’re productive and effective.” Leaders emulate historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Bill Gates. Managers bring up productivity gurus such as David Allen and Edwards Deming.


There are differences between leaders and managers.

However, when it comes to running a company, organization, school, or any setting where many people are working towards one goal, there will always be leaders and managers.

They co-exist, they need each other for optimal output. Leaders need managers to take care of the functions, to lead and develop others, find process improvements. Managers need leaders for vision, influence, and guidance.

Leadership 101

To be more than a supervisor or manager, but a leader, follow these 23 suggestions from John Maxwell’s “Leadership 101”:

  • Be a role model
  • Accept responsibility
  • Do more than expected
  • Offer creative ideas for change
  • Genuinely respect people
  • Become a change agent
  • Find win-win solutions
  • Value people more than procedures
  • See through others’ eyes; meet their needs
  • Initiate and accept responsibility for growth
  • Develop and follow a statement of purpose
  • Develop accountability for results starting with yourself
  • Know & do high return activities
  • Do your job with consistent excellence
  • Communicate the strategy and vision of the organization
  • Make people you work with more successful
  • Make difficult decisions that make a difference
  • Place priority on developing others
  • Place your efforts in the top 20% of your people

Lastly, “What is one thing you could possibly do to be more of a leader and less of a manager or supervisor?”

Take one of the above steps and you’ll see your leadership success increase significantly.

How Do You Differ Between Leadership and Management?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

 Would you like to contribute a post?

Barbara Jordan
Barbara is an author, speaker, and leadership coach. Sign up to receive the ezine “Success Tips for Busy Leaders” or sign up to receive a free sample chapter of Achieve Success In Spite of Stress. Connect with her via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.