Difference between Leadership and Management for project success

A project is an undertaking that has a beginning and an end, and is carried out to meet established goals within cost, schedule and quality objectives. Project management brings together and optimizes the resources necessary to successfully complete the project. These resources include the skills, talents and cooperative efforts of a team of people; facilities, tools and equipment; information, systems, and techniques; and money (Haynes, 2002).

According to Culp and Smith, a project is carried out by people who come together to complete a specific task. In organizing and managing a project, both organization (structural) and people, are of utmost importance and none of them can be ignored. But most of the times, the structure is considered more important than the people. This is because project managers are trained to use structural management tools but have little training to deal with people (Culp & Smith, 1992).

On the other hand, management is to decide what is to be done and then getting it done through people. This means that people are the most important resources available to managers and through them; all the other resources of an organization can be managed.

The Management Standards Centre states that the key purpose of management and leadership is to provide direction, facilitate change and achieve results through the efficient, creative and responsible use of resources (Armstrong & Stephens, 2005).

The terms leadership and management are used interchangeable by some people. While some people consider them as totally opposite to each other and according to them good manager cannot be a good leader and vice versa. There are some similarities between leadership and management like they both influence employees and they both have authority and power. Nonetheless, there are many differences between both the concepts but with proper training and development one can be both a good leader as well as a good manager. Therefore, despite of having differences, both leadership and management overlap each other.

In this paper, we will discuss the concepts of leadership and management, differences between them and how to make a balance between the two for the success of a project.


Management is the process of coordinating people and other resources to achieve the goals of an organisation (Pride, Hughes, & Kapoor, 2008).

The Processes of Management

Management focuses on achieving results by effectively acquiring, deploying, utilizing and controlling all the resources required, such as people, money, facilities, plant and equipment, information and knowledge (Armstrong & Stephens, 2005).

The various processes of management are designed in such a way so as to attain the objectives and can be categorised as:

Planning- determining the goals of an organization and a method to achieve those goals

Organizing- setting up and staffing people and resources

Motivating- exercising leadership attributes to motivate employees to work together efficiently

Controlling- monitoring the actual performance and comparing it with the expected results and taking corrective actions wherever required (Armstrong & Stephens, 2005)

Management Standards

Management standards specify the list of things that managers need to know and be able to do. They serve as guidelines for managers against which their performance can be assessed. Below are a few management standards as given by the Management Standards Centre:

Providing direction

Facilitating change

Achieving results

Meeting customer needs

Working with people

Using resources

Managing self and personal skills (Armstrong & Stephens, 2005)

Project management is the planning, delegating, monitoring and control of all aspects of the project, and the motivation of those involved, to achieve the project objectives within the expected performance targets for time, cost, quality, scope, benefits and risks (Murray, 2009).

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The project manager is the single focus for day-to-day management of a project. He has the authority to run the project on behalf of the project board within the constraints laid down by the board. His prime responsibility is to ensure that the project gives the required results within specified time, cost, quality, scope, risk and benefits. The project manager has numerous responsibilities like:

Prepare documents like project brief, benefits review plan, project initiation document etc.

Prepare reports such as issue reports, end project reports, exception reports, etc.

Maintain records like issue register, risk register, daily log, etc.

Ensure that the work is not overlooked or duplicated

Liaise with any external suppliers

Manage proper communication between directing and delivering levels of the project

Establish and manage the project’s procedures (Murray, 2009).

A project manager should also possess project management skills that are relevant for the specific project which he undertakes. These skills/ competencies include the following:


Time management

People management

Problem solving

Attention to detail



Conflict management (Murray, 2009)

According to Meredith & Mantel (2010), hard workers are easy to find, but the difficulty lies in finding the one who can complete a difficult job. The drive to complete the task is considered to be of utmost importance in a project manager (Meredith & Mantel, 2010). For the successful completion of a project, it is essential to select the right person as a project manager. The most sought after attributes while selecting a project manager are:

A strong technical background

A hard-nosed manager

A mature individual

Someone who is currently available

Someone on good terms with senior executives

A person who can keep the project team happy (Meredith & Mantel, 2010).

The success of a project management is dependent on the final outcome of the project. The outcomes of a successful project management are:

Completion of the project within budget

Satisfying the project schedule

Adequate quality standards

Meeting the project goal (Munns & Bjeirmi, 1996)

Whereas, the following factors may cause a hindrance to achieve the outcomes of a project:

Inadequate basis for project

Inefficient project manager

Less/no support from top management

Tasks not defined properly

Lack of project management techniques

Improper use of management techniques

Project close-down not planned

Lack of commitment to project (Munns & Bjeirmi, 1996)

To avoid the above mentioned hindrances, proper planning needs to be done to finish the project successfully, a skilled project manager should be appointed, adequate time should be taken to define the tasks properly, information flows should be adequate, motivating employees through rewards, corrective actions should be taken when mistakes are identified (Munns & Bjeirmi, 1996).


Leadership focuses on the most important resource known as people. It is defined as the process developing and communicating a vision for the future, motivating people and gaining their commitment and engagement (Armstrong & Stephens, 2005).

Leadership Roles

There are three roles of a leader:

Define the task- a leader should specify what the group is expected to do.

Achieve the task- a leader makes sure that the purpose of existence of group, which is to complete the task is, is fulfilled.

Maintain effective relationships- a leader has to ensure that there is cordial relationship between him and his group members and also between the members within the group (Armstrong & Stephens, 2005).

According to Adair (2004), there are seven qualities of leadership:




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Confidence (Adair, 2004)

A leader is a person (with leadership qualities) who has the appropriate knowledge and skill to lead a group to achieve its ends willingly (Adair, 2004).

There are three overlapping needs of any workgroup which are task need, team maintenance need and individual need. Hence, the groups look forward to their leaders to assist them in completing the task, help building teamwork aspects and help to meet individual needs. There are many functions that leaders perform which can be categorised in relation to the needs of the group that are task needs, team maintenance needs and individual needs. These functions are:






Providing an example

Definig the task




Source: Adair, 2004

The above mentioned functions are handled by leaders with excellent skills and qualities. A leader should possess following characteristics to perform its functions:

Group influence




Application/ responsibility (Adair, 2004)

Project leadership is defined as a presence and a process carried out within an organisational role that assumes responsibility for the needs and rights of those people who choose to follow the leader in accomplishing project results (Cleland, 1995).

A leader of an organisation and a leader in managing a project have many similarities like development of a vision, guidance in both the operations and strategic directions of the project and the organisation; motivate the group members to contribute to the efficient and effective utilization of resources. But a leader of a project has some additional challenges in comparison to a leader of an organisation which are summarised below:

providing cross-functional and cross-organisational leadership environment as the stakeholders are concerned with the team effort.

operating without documented formal authority over the team members, who may report in a traditional authority-responsibility relationship to their functional managers.

working in a matrix organisational design (Cleland, 1995).

The project leader’s direction finder

Managing the stakeholders

Managing performance

Managing project life cycle

According to Briner, Hastings and Geddes (1997), a project leader looks in six directions which are explained below:

Source: Author

Managing the stakeholders-

Looking upwards- the sponsor of the project who is also the project leader’s boss has his own reasons for asking the leader to perform a particular task. Therefore, it is the important for the project leader to look upwards to his sponsor and know and understand the reasons of performing the task.

Looking outwards- all project have end users and numerous other stakeholders who have different expectations with the project and it is the responsibility of a project leader to meet those expectations.

Managing the project life cycle-

Looking backwards and looking forwards- a project leader should look forward and make realistic plans by employing the required resources and also ensure that there are appropriate monitoring and reporting systems so that he is able to meet the set targets.

Managing performance-

Looking downwards- a project leader should make sure that his group members are performing efficiently both individually and collectively.

Looking inwards- a project leader should also consider his own performance for the overall success of the project (Briner, Hastings, & Geddes, 1997).

Leadership vs Management

Leadership and management are two different concepts. Leadership is not better than management or a replacement for it and vice versa. Management alone is inadequate and organisations have a need to create efficient leaders. According to Bennis [1989 as cited in (Elearn, 2007)], the attributes of a leader and a manager can be summarised as follows:

The Manager

The Leader





Relies on control

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Inspires people

Shorter range view

Longer range view

Asks how and when

Asks what and why

Accepts the status quo

Challenges it

Does things right

Does the right thing

The behaviours of a leader and a manager are different and can be listed as follows:








Leading people

Managing work








Sets direction

Plans detail





Personal charisma

Formal authority

















New roads

Existing roads


What is right

Being right







Source: (Leadership vs. Management, 2011)

The function of management is to attain the organisational goals while leadership deals with influencing people to achieve a common goal. According to John P. Kotter, leadership and management can be distinguished on the basis of their functions as follows:

Management functions

Leadership functions


Establishing direction


Aligning people


Motivating and inspiring

Source: (Promoting Thought Leadership…, 2011)


Technical skills of managementInspite of all the differences between leadership and management, leadership is an important aspect of management in conjunction with planning, organizing, motivating and controlling. According to Kotter [2001 as cited in (Elearn, 2007)], management helps in bringing consistency and order in technical dimensions like quality. While Bennis [1989 as cited in (Elearn, 2007)] says that the art of influencing people to behave in a specific way is called as leadership. To complete a project successfully, strong leadership should be combined with effective management and the people involved in the project should be developed in both the areas.

Managers need both relationship and technical management skills

Relationship skills of leadership

Source: (Elearn, 2007)

Rather than considering leadership and management as positions, efforts should be made to treat them as different and complementary processes which are incomplete without each other. Then leadership will become one of the roles of managers.

According to Robert Quinn [2002 as cited in (Elearn, 2007)], managers should specialise themselves in playing both management and leadership roles. The eight roles of managerial leader can be summed up as follows:

The roles of a managerial leader



The innovator is creative and facilitates adaptation and change



Living with change

Thinking creatively

Managing change

The broker is politically astute, persuasive, influential and powerful and is concerned with maintaining the organisation’s external legitimacy and obtaining external resources


Resource acquisition

Building and maintaining a powerbase

Negotiating agreement and commitment

Presenting ideas

The mentor is helpful and approachable and engages in the development of people through a caring, empathetic orientation



Understanding self and others

Communicating effectively

Developing employees

The facilitator encourages teamwork and cohesiveness and manages interpersonal conflicts



Building teams

Using participative decision making

Managing conflict

The monitor checks on performance and handles paperwork

Information management


Monitoring individual performance

Managing collective performance

Analysing information with critical thinking

The co-ordinator maintains structure, schedules, organises and co-ordinates work of people



Managing project

Designing work

Managing across functions

The director engages in planning and goal setting, sets objectives and establishes clear expectations


Goal clarity

Developing and communicating a vision

Setting goals and objectives

Designing and organising

The producer is task oriented and work focused and motivates members to increase production and to accomplish stated goals



Working productively

Fostering a productive work environment

Managing time and stress

Source: (Elearn, 2007)

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