The roles of managers and leaders are crucial for fostering growth and driving innovation within organisations. While these terms are often used interchangeably, it is essential to understand the fundamental differences between management and leadership. This article aims to shed light on these distinctions, providing aspiring and existing leaders with hopefully some valuable insights for success in their roles, and what magic can occur if they are both merged!

The Task-Oriented Manager vs. The People-Oriented Leader

Management vs Leadership

At the core of the management vs. leadership debate lies a simple but crucial distinction: managers manage tasks, while leaders lead people.

Northouse (2007) delineates that leadership is centred on fostering a shared vision, motivating employees, and cultivating the right work culture within the organisation. Leaders possess a unique ability to inspire, influence, and rally individuals around a common goal. Rather than overseeing day-to-day operations, they empower their teams, and drive transformative change.  Leaders champion the human aspect of the business.

On the other hand, management is intricately entwined with the orchestration of tasks, setting goals, allocating resources and the day-to-day progress of operations. Managers are instrumental in structuring teams to achieve targets and ensuring the efficient execution of processes.  Managers should be adept at streamlining processes, optimising efficiencies, and ensuring that quality standards are met.  They manage the work people do, focusing on the tangible aspects of the business.

Imagine you are building a rocket. The manager’s role would involve ensuring that specific tasks, such as engineering the various components, are completed efficiently within the given time and resources. On the other hand, the leader’s responsibility would be to inspire and guide the team, ensuring they work collaboratively towards the shared vision of launching the rocket successfully.

A company cannot reach its full potential without both effective leadership and management.

The Power of Both

In startups, especially in tech where innovation and agility are paramount, it is imperative to recognise that while leadership sets the course, management ensures that the ship sails smoothly. Striking a balance between these two facets is not about pitting one against the other, but rather about harnessing their unique strengths to propel the organisation forward.

In fact, in many startups founders are required to wear both hats for some time.  In this case the most effective leaders embrace both skill sets to leverage the full potential of their teams. By combining task-oriented efficiency with people-centric inspiration, founders can foster an environment that nurtures innovation, drives growth, and propels tech startups towards success.

Furthermore, founders must be agile, adaptable, and open to new approaches. They must be adept at managing uncertainty and leading their teams through ambiguity, recognising that the ability to navigate uncharted territory is a key determinant of success. But we know this is often easier said than done as we don’t all possess the skills to do both effectively, which is why building a founding team that provides a good balance of the skills of ‘Manager’ and ‘Leader’ equally is paramount.


As founders and leaders of tech startups, it is imperative to understand and embrace the true essence of leadership. By adopting a multifaceted approach, aligning vision with execution, and fostering a supportive and innovative work environment, tech startup leaders can set themselves apart from the competition and achieve sustained growth.

At Propeller-Tech, we understand the importance of effective leadership in driving the success of tech startups. Our experienced team of professional recruiters is dedicated to partnering with visionary leaders, connecting them with exceptional talent and helping them build high-performing teams. Contact us today to unlock the power of leadership in your tech startup journey.

Natalie Harper

Author Natalie Harper

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