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What’s the difference between a Leader and a Manager?

6 min read

“All managers are leaders, but all leaders are not managers”– Let us start by putting this across first.

Though considered as overlapping entities, the role of a leader and a manager are functionally very different from each other.  

How you ask? 

Leadership is not a facet of management. There, we said it. Leading people is different from managing people.

If the former is an abstract art, the latter is a calculated mathematical formula.

Leaders follow their own instincts and do what they believe in, while managers follow the standard path laid in the company policies.  

Still a little confused? Let us break it down for you.  

Who are Leaders? 

Leaders vision a future, a goal, an objective that excites them.

They then communicate this to people and motivate them to evolve strategies for realizing the vision.

They also provide resources, technological support and other assistance to achieve these goals. 

Needless to say, leading isn’t easy, leaders are power-packed with essential attributes such as vision, selflessness, commitment, visibility, integrity, trust, creative ability, toughness, communication ability, and risk-taking mindfulness to make their visions a reality. 

Who are Managers? 

To understand this, we take the quote from John D. Rockefeller III’s The Second American Revolution- “An organization is a system, with a logic of its own, and all the weight of tradition and inertia.

The deck is stacked in favor of the tried and proven way of doing things and against the taking of risks and striking out in new directions.” 

From this inertia and conservatism, companies pave way for managers to divide the power, instead of creating individual leaders.

Sailing a boat against all odds with the contribution of everyone on board isn’t easy, and that’s exactly what managers do.  

You don’t have to be heroic or a genius to be a manager, but rather own the right concoction of tough-mindedness, intelligence, persistence, resilience, analytical ability, goodwill, tolerance and hard work.  

Management Vs Leadership

Risk-taking

Though not blind thrill-seekers, leaders do lean towards risk-taking whereas managers tend to be more risk-averse.

The Italian proverb “The one who risks nothing, gains nothing” holds true for the nature of leaders when it comes to work.  

Managers prefer strategized plans that have either been tried & tested or are fool-proof.

They achieve the desired goals through the key functions of planning and budgeting, problem solving and controlling & organizing and staffing.  

Skillset

Researchers called the leader as an entity that has the soul, the passion and the creativity while a manager has the mind, the rational and the persistence.

A leader is flexible, innovative, independent, inspiring, and courageous while a manager is consulting, stabilizing. analytical, authoritative and deliberate. 

Evaluation style

Leaders depend more on verbal communication opposed to managers who choose the written route.

Hence, you won’t find a leader asking you to submit written assignments for evaluating your work or gauging your potential during interviews.

Managers, on the other hand, need your work to understand your performance and past accomplishments.  

Effects

Leaders aren’t expected to manage people but managers are told to provide leadership to their teams.

The former influences the behaviour, work and efforts of people towards achievement of specified goals in a given situation, while the latter ensures the vision materializes through people collaboration.  

Workforce management

Managers follow a transactional way of work- meaning that they allot work to their subordinates and convey the work focus to ensure the vision set by the leader is realized.

Many leaders, too, act as managers when the situation requires them to. This is due to the fact that leaders don’t exactly have subordinates.

They have followers and following is a voluntary activity. Leaders don’t assign tasks but distribute the responsibility of achieving the goal to managers, who in turn get the work done by their teammates.  

However, when things go south, managers face the most heat from leaders.

Hence, it is said that managers are also leaders in a way for standing up and backing their subordinates.  

Key Differences Between Leaders and Managers (Infographic)

Leader Vs Manager Infographic

Conclusion

Considered to be synonymous to each other, a leader and a manager differ in their outlook, behaviour, skills, strategies, and competencies.

However, building competence, control, and the appropriate balance of power aren’t shortcuts to success.

It requires the amalgamation of inspiration, vision, and human passion too- Aka managers and leaders.  

Organizations need both to succeed but developing them requires a reduced focus on mere logic.

Strategic exercises that foster an environment where creativity and imagination are allowed to flourish are preferred, especially when resilience and every basic understanding of the business is tested.

Dr GP Rao, the Founder of GPR consulting firm, spoke about this and more at HR Perspective.

Watch the video to learn how compassion can be integrated into businesses, the role of leadership today and the roadmap to creating resilient leaders.  

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    Meet the author

    Dr. Nishat Afzal

    Content Writer

    A dentist by profession and writer by choice, Nishat is the Communications Manager and Content Writer at Keka Technologies. A literature lover and a religious fan of Ruskin Bond, her magic works best in creating pieces that involve story-telling, emotional punches, facts & current affairs. If not found sewing letters together to form impactful phrases, Nishat can be seen doing RCTs, crocheting or eating to her heart's content.

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