Are you a Leader or a Manager? What are the differences between Leadership and Management?

These titles are often interchangeable in schools, although I have to say senior management teams in the last 2 decades have been replaced with senior leadership teams. Have their roles changed drastically or is this simply an evolution of language?

John Kotter, Konosuke Matsushita professor of leadership at Harvard University describes management as,

“… a set of processes that keep an organisation functioning. They make it work today – they make it hit this quarter’s numbers. The processes are about planning, budgeting, staffing, clarifying jobs, measuring performance, and problem-solving when results did not go to plan.”

Where educational leadership should be focussed on keeping schools on track to achieve the organisation’s vision. This means that leaders should spend time strategising and ensuring that all stakeholders are well equipped to deliver on that vision.

All leadership comes with followership, simply put you cannot lead without engaging your followers, this is rarely achieved through structural power or status (which is commonly used in management).

” [Leadership] is about aligning people to the vision, that means buy-in and communication, motivation and inspiration.”


I see the main focus of educational management as the day to day operations, the running of departments, the dealing with behaviour, and maintenance of standards. This does not improve the school per se. Management’s primary function is to maintain the status quo. Where leadership models are normally used during periods of change, as schools are ever-evolving entities this is the reason senior leaders are referred to as such.

“Leadership is always about change: it’s not about mobilising people to do what they’ve always done well to continue to do it well.”


There are obvious crossovers between the roles of leadership and management. Line ‘management’ meetings will obviously include leadership as well as their management namesakes. To make an explicit distinction between them is divisive and will hinder productivity.

“There will be senior leaders who are particularly focused on strategic aims, but it’s a great mistake to think that if you’re managing a team you’re only managing it. You’re actually leading as well.”

Dame Mary Marsh CEO NSPCC

Wallace 2004 calls the process of juggling the roles of leadership and management the meta-task of orchestration, this is when leaders step into a management mindset to reaffirm and sure up operational skills before stepping back into leadership.

For example, senior members may be able to fulfil the role of a manager in facilitating examination entries but the leader’s role should look to guide their followers’ actions toward the vision. In this case that may be to align actions to make sure that more of their cohort are accessing higher examination papers (to lead to higher outcomes).

Anyone looking to transition between management to leadership (or vice versa) should consider the time frame and results of their initiatives and actions. Management usually involves the now, where leadership looks to build towards the long term.

What to do first.


  1. What is your vision? Make sure this is the first task you do.
  2. How are you empowering your followers towards this vision?
  3. How are you supporting your followers to make strides towards your/your organisation’s end goal?
  4. Resistance is a given, as a leader, you will have to have a strategy to ameliorate this.


  1. Where is your organisation going? Are you aligned with your leader’s vision?
  2. What has to be done? How are you empowering your subordinates to complete these tasks which have to be completed (normally in the short term)?
  3. How are you supporting your subordinates to complete the tasks and goals (do they have the skills, can you provide them with the training)?
  4. Are your subordinates compliant?



Wallace, M. Journal of Educational Change (2004) 5: 57.

2 thoughts on “Are you a Leader or a Manager? What are the differences between Leadership and Management?

  1. Interesting to read, Pran. Not sure I’d agree with this, though: “Management’s primary function is to maintain the status quo..” I’d say management is about keeping the wheels oiled and the school working effectively in its day to day operations. Leadership I see as about moving forward, as you say. I think leaders have to manage, too. Not sure all managers lead, though some do. Thanks for sharing this.

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