At first glace it may seem there is little difference between the terms "leader" -- a person who leads someone else or a group of people -- and "leadership," referring to the methods and manner in which leaders lead. The relationship between these terms is intrinsic since leadership can be defined as the leader’s ability to influence other people, either positively or negatively; history offers examples of both types. The distinction between leader and leadership, however, will emphasize each one’s characteristics.

Individual versus Group

The first distinction is obvious: the leader is an individual, while leadership may represent a group of people leading an organization, a community or a country. These terms may also be interpreted differently, depending on culture: in Western countries, the focus is on the leader’s individual characteristics, while Eastern societies value a more collaborative type of leadership. Irrespective of culture, though, leaders should make people feel like they are all pursuers of a common goal.

Person versus Process

A leader implements his personal agenda as well as the organizational agenda. Leadership is a continuous process centered on the interactions between leaders and followers, which often determine the success of the leaders’ mission. Leaders’ personalities, therefore, are also paramount. Professors Timothy Judge and Joyce Bono created a five-factor model of personality, including specific traits of the transformational leader: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional adjustment and openness to experience.

Initiator versus Result

Leaders are initiators of change, especially as viewed by the transformational leadership theory. Professor Bernard Bass mentioned four characteristics of transformational leaders that aid them in undertaking their role as change agents: idealized influence (charisma), inspirational motivation (vision), intellectual stimulation (encouraging followers’ creativity) and individual consideration (supporting followers’ individual needs). Leadership, on the other hand, is defined by results, the impact the leaders have on other people by using their abilities to influence others in some way.

Role versus Acting

Not all leaders can fill the role they are in successfully. Your success as an effective leader depends on your traits, skills, knowledge and attitudes as much as on your followers’ willingness to follow. If we compare the leader with the role an actor must play, then his leadership would be the acting itself. Depending on how well an actor plays the part, we qualify his acting – here, leadership – as either inspiring or dreadful.