Leadship vs Management Qualities

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To achieve success in a project, it is important to have a qualified project manager. The way in which a project is either being led or managed can have a big impact on the outcome of the project. To assess which management techniques work best for a given project, it can be advantageous to understand the difference between managing and leading. Understanding the key differences between management and leadership can help with deciding on what is best suitable for the desired outcome of the project, as well as what fits the interests and personality of the project manager. Besides reflecting on the success of the project, the chosen management style will also reflect on how the team experiences the work process.

The article will be based on the view that a manager is goal-oriented, aiming to achieve goals set by an organization, in contrast to a leader who is people-oriented, as they aim to gather a team around a vision.

The purpose of the article is to dive into the differences and similarities between manager and leadership qualities. The two roles will be assessed on their strengths and weaknesses and discuss what benefits can come from using either or. In addition, it will be discussed how to utilize and combine the best qualities from both of the management styles, to perform and deliver the best possible outcome of a project.



Qualities of Leadership

Leadership can be defined as the process of influencing others towards achieving a goal. In other words, leadership means using communication to persuade others, in this case, one’s team, to follow a vision. The vision is set by the leader and can be used as a predefined target, that can be reached by the team, through motivation from the leader. Răducan et. al further emphasizes that the most important qualities of a leader are to create balance within the team. [1] Leadership differs from management in the aspect that is more human-oriented rather than goal-oriented. This is reflected in the way a leader achieves their goals, which happens through motivating and engaging with the teams to achieve these goals. Therefore, an important trait for a project leader is communication.

To be a good leader, it is important to have qualities such as having a vision, being curious, being able to communicate, emotional intelligence, and accountability. Creating a vision is a powerful way of communicating, as it helps in creating an understanding. This understanding can ease the process of getting one’s team to strive towards the same goals. Emotional intelligence is also an important factor, as research has shown that there is a significant relationship between the ability to be in control of one’s feelings and the outcome of the project. [2] A good quality in a leader is empathy, as leadership is about understanding what can drive a team and what can inspire them to continue to strive towards an achievement. The leadership of a project can be assessed based on the following three measurable factors. [3]

  • Effectiveness
  • Satisfaction
  • Extra effort

It is possible to measure efficiency by looking at what momentum and growth have been created through teamwork. Quality leadership is reflected in how well the team achieves the predefined goals. Furthermore, it is possible to measure the quality of the leadership by looking at satisfaction within the team, including the satisfaction with the leader and the management of the labor. Finally, progress in the team’s desire to put in an extra effort in creating a valuable and successful project. This equates to employees making an extra effort to achieve their goals in comparison to what is normally measured.

Downfalls of Leadership

There are a lot of benefits to using a leadership approach to manage a project, but not performing it properly can have consequences that can have a negative effect on the success of the outcome of the project. When talking about poor leadership, most studies indicate that this is due to personality traits that conflict with the desired qualities of a leader. Toor and Ogulana argue that the negative personal attributes of the leader are what contribute to the ineffectiveness in leadership. Characteristics of an ineffective leader consist of personality traits, such as “self-centered behaviors, wrongful use of power, manipulation, intimidation, coercion, and one-way communication”.[4] These may be personality traits already present in a person before entering a leadership role. But it is also seen that the power can go to the head of a leader, where these traits will develop as the power rises.

In addition to the consequences poor leadership can have on the outcome of a project and its success, arguments can be made for more serious consequences. These consequences include, but are not limited to, have shown to have an impact on the mental health of the followers. This manifests itself in the form of lack of interest, low job performance, as well as low self-confidence, in people who are subject to this type of management. This means that it can be directly measurable whether the leadership is effective as it can affect the organization through declining productivity.

To avoid leading your team inefficiently, it is therefore important to keep an eye on one’s own motivation and drive. Furthermore, it is possible to keep track of one’s own leadership abilities by being aware of the measurable changes within the team. If it is discovered that team members are losing interest or have a low performance, it can potentially be the management style that is the culprit.


Management Qualities

A manager’s main role is to optimize to meet the set goals. Unlike leadership, the main focus of management is goal-oriented. This means that the role of the manager consists of planning, organizing, directing, and controlling the project and the team. Ogunlana et. al. argues that the role of a project manager requires the performance of three key tasks [4]:

  • Implementation of an effective plan
  • Maintaining communication within and outside of the project
  • Handling of external and internal conflicts

Ensuring a successful project includes being able to stay within schedule and budget, hence why an effective plan is necessary. Planning out a strategy is also beneficial as it can help plan the delegation of human resources to reach these set targets. Communication, like in leadership, is an essential part of project management. The majority of the project manager’s time is spent communicating with people internally and externally from the project.[5] Internal communication includes, among other tasks, distributing roles, information, and responsibility within the group. To mitigate miscommunication, it is necessary for the project manager to assign the needed roles and responsibilities between the team members, as they can help create structure in the project team. Conflict resolution is necessary to avoid threatening the aforementioned schedule or budget, as this can have a negative influence on the success of the project.

Management can therefore best be described as being a function that aims to achieve and ensure the best climate to perform and thereby deliver the best possible results within the specifications of the project. A good manager can therefore be described as an organizer who structures complex problems, by creating a plan, predicting possible risk, and deciding on an approach to achieve the set targets. Furthermore, a good project manager can adhere to a strategic overview. The task includes being able to delegate work tasks between the team members, maintain an overview of resources at hand, as well as the future resources that might be needed. The quality of the management can therefore have an impact on how effectively a goal I achieved. To sum up, the most important qualities of a manager are to be able to organize a team, be able to establish good communication with them and with both internal and external stakeholders. In addition, it is important to have an overview of resources, human included, allocate them where needed, and be able to meet deadlines.

Downfalls of management

Management can be useful under the right conditions. As was the case with leadership, it is important for a manager to be able to talk to people, as the main part of the function consists of delegating and structuring tasks within the team. Incompetence in management can be seen by the following characteristics, according to Lombardo et. al [6]:

  • Over- or undermanaging
  • Not being able to build a team
  • Inability to adapt

Overmanaging references to the project manager having excessive control over the project. Overmanaging can have consequences on the spirit of the team, create frustration, a lack of independence, or create low self-esteem in relation to feeling able to solve the problems without the project manager’s influence. Undermanaging, on the other hand, means an increased risk of unnecessary problems arising. Not identifying problems in time or solving them in the best possible way, can threaten the success of the project. By not being able to build a well-functioning team, the risk of problems and internal conflicts is increased. It is considered that building a team can contribute to an overall collaboration and teamwork that can increase the motivation to deliver a successful project. Finally, if a project manager is not able to adapt to a changing environment the likelihood of success is small. Organizations need to be ever-changing, to keep up with society and ensure survival. It is therefore important for a manager to be able to adapt both to organizational changes, but also the possibility of change made by the client.

Benefitting from qualities and avoiding downfalls

Benefitting from leadership qualities

With a leader comes a vision. Creating a vision can help gather the team around a common goal. By bringing the team together around this shared vision, it is then possible to motivate them to perform better while strengthening their morale and creating a fellowship. As a leader, you have the opportunity to create a strong belief in the project that your team is working on, in return you get motivated and enthusiastic team members who are passionate about the work they are doing.

It is therefore possible that by creating a vision, to create a unity and a common driving force that can lead the project to the best possible outcome.

Another advantage of using leadership as an approach is that the leader has the task of resolving conflicts within the team. By the leader having as a task to focus on the dynamic within the team, potential conflicts might be prevented, by the leader stepping in quickly and deescalating the conflict. Not only is that an advantage for the leader and the effectiveness within the team, but it can also help create a safe space for the individuals from the team to come to the leader with conflicts that need de-escalation. Thus, it is possible for the leader to use his communicative abilities to escalate conflicts that may arise during a project. This of course also applies externally, where the manager aims to have communication with external actors, and through that can ensure that there is proper communication. This can furthermore help the team, who will not bear the burden of external conflicts regarding the project.

Avoiding leadership downfalls

Poor leadership can have a direct impact on the success of a project, as well as on the outcome of it. It is therefore important to avoid the downfalls of leadership. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is important as a leader to understand one’s own motivation and drive. This is important because the leader will always be in the front line, moving the team forwards. Not having the right motivation can have direct consequences on the team members. This is seen, for example, if one’s motivation as a leader is one’s own gain, as this will be reflected in the wellbeing and through that the productivity of one’s team. [4]

When it comes to leadership there is also talk of abilities. It is important, in order to avoid becoming a bad leader, to assess to what extent you have the ability to live up to the role, or whether there are qualities that you still need to further develop. It is therefore incredibly crucial if choosing a leadership approach, that the role is approached humbly.

Since certain personal qualities are seen to be preferred in a leader, such as communications skills, emotional intelligence, and accountability, it should be assessed if these are qualities that you possess, or if these are qualities that need to be further worked on.

Finally, it is important to point out that one does not have to be a born leader, become a good leader. Leadership is a skill that can be developed. Therefore, it should be seen as a skill that requires one to learn from one’s experience. Hence, a leader should be able to learn from both mistakes and successes. As a leader, you take responsibility for the outcome that you present, why it is required that you can stand by your team, and the choices that are being made in the project process.

Benefitting from management qualities

Choosing a management approach means choosing a structural leadership style, with the main purpose being to achieve a goal. The main advantage of choosing a management approach compared to a leadership approach is that it is less personality-based, and more goal-oriented, which means that the focus is on using common practices to achieve set goals. In short, anybody would be able to learn how to become a good manager.

To achieve the best project results, it is important for the manager to be able to create a structured plan on how to get to this goal. This includes being able to allocate the human resources by their competencies to receive the best possible outcome. It is however also important to be aware that the plan must be adaptable throughout working with the project. These skills can be obtained both by learning through practice and can also be acquired through observing others.

It can be advantageous to choose a managerial approach if one’s intention is to simply achieve a certain goal. An example of this could be handing in a group project. The driving force of a manager should be to get the team to reach the goal, by following the plan.

Avoiding management downfalls

A common feature between poor leadership and poor management is that it has direct consequences on the outcome of the project. It is therefore also important to understand which pitfalls to avoid when choosing a management approach. To summarize the previous paragraph, the main elements to avoid are over-and under-managing, not being able to establish a functional team, and lastly, not being able to adapt.

A problem that might occur is not being able to build your own team. By not being able to build your own team, you won’t have the control or opportunity to put together the desired skills, qualities, or personality types, that you as a manager wish for in your team. Therefore, it can be an advantage to be able to quickly identify the skills and competencies of the assigned team members. Based on this, it is possible to plan, how they can be utilized in the most optimal way. In addition, it can also prove beneficial to assess the team members, as to be able to keep an eye on where possible conflicts might escalate, for example between conflicting personalities or driving forces.

The ultimate goal, for a management approach, is to achieve the set goal. Therefore, the last element might also be one of the most important. To achieve success, it is necessary to stick to a structured plan, to be able to overcome possible hindrances. As circumstances may change along the way, a successful manager is ready for change and ready to adapt their plan to the change. By doing this, it should be possible to achieve success in the project, no matter how the circumstances have changed.


At first glance, it can be difficult to distinguish between leadership and management, as in a way they will always be correlated. To put it simply, it’s not possible to be a leader of a successful project without being able to manage your team. Neither is it possible to be a manager of a successful project, without being able to be a leading figure for your team. Nevertheless, when choosing between using a leadership or management approach, one should first consider one’s own personal competencies, as well as the relationship with and the dynamics within the team.

Difference in characteristics between a leader and a manager

Choosing leadership, which is a more human-oriented approach, compared to management, is good for raising the motivation of the team. Leading a team requires that you have the personal competencies of being able to motivate others and make them believe in the vision that you put on the agenda. To produce good results as a leader, it is important, to either be a people-person, who can quickly deduce an individual’s potential and driving forces, or to be within a team, where you as a leader trust your team’s skills and capabilities. It can be deduced from the research done within the subject, that there are many benefits in terms of employee satisfaction to be gained by choosing a leadership approach.

In recent times, management has become synonymous with cost control. Regardless of professional background, anybody can be a manager of a hospital, manufacturing company, or bank. The main purpose of the position is to maintain a financial gain [7]. This is where the leading qualities are important if one wishes to be a good manager. Being able to keep to a schedule, might keep the organization happy, but you won’t be able to accomplish the set targets and goals, if you as a manager are not able to create a functional and thriving team.

Annoted bibliography

Explanations of success and derailment in upper-level management positions

In this article, it must be considered that the study was made in 1988, as well as that the test persons who participated in the study, all were upper-level managers, which makes the sample size relatively narrow. Furthermore, is it important to point out that in this article, a clear distinction is not made, between management as an approach compared to leadership as an approach. Despite this, the study is still being cited in modern studies and contributes valuable insights on causes for failures in projects.

Risk Management in a dynamic society: A modelling problem

The article’s focus is on risk management, nevertheless, are there some good points and criticism surrounding the role of a manager. It should be considered that the article is from 1997, but the criticism is still valid today.


  1. Răducana, R & Răducana, R 2014, ‘Leadership and Management’
  2. Geraldi, J, Thuesen, C, Oehmen, J & Stingl, V 2017, Doing Projects. A Nordic Flavour to Managing Projects, Danish Standards Foundation, Denmark
  3. Limsila, K & Ogunlana, S 2007 ’Performance and leadership outcome correlates of leadership styles and subordinate commitment’
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Toor, S & Ogunlana, S 2009, ‘Ineffective leadership Investigating the negative attributes of leaders and organizational neutralizers’ Ineffective
  5. Dr. Algathani, A 2014, ‘Are Leadership and Management Different?’ Different
  6. Lombardo, M, Ruderman, M & McCauley, C 1988, ‘Explanations of success and derailment in upper-level management positions’ Lombardo
  7. Rasmussen, J 1997, ’Risk Management in a dynamic society: A modelling problem’ Rasmussen
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