‘Leader’ vs. ‘Manager’ – What is the Real Difference?

‘Leader’ and ‘Manager’ are two of the most common terms used in business and beyond.  Often the terms are used interchangeably. Sometimes there may be a positive connotation towards being a ‘leader’ and more negative connotations towards being a ‘manager’. When put head to head, there are distinctive differences. But is being a leader better than being a manager? What is the difference?

There are many traits and behaviours that make up a strong leader, but some of the common key characteristics include:

  • Honesty & Integrity: to establish trust and belief from people, in yourself and your vision that you are guiding them
  • Vision: knowing where you are, where you are heading and how you and your team can create the path for the future
  • Inspiration:  inspiring your team to work hard and achieve their best by ensuring they understand their role in the bigger picture
  • Ability to Challenge: being unafraid to stand out from the crowd, challenge norms, and have the courage to think outside the box
  • Communication Skills: keep your team informed of the journey, where you are, where you are heading and share any challenges or hurdles you may encounter along the way

As for managers, some of the common key characteristics we see include:

  • Executing Vision: taking a strategic vision, or creative ideas and being able to practically break it down into a roadmap to be followed by the team
  • Ability to Direct: day-to-day work efforts, review resources needed and anticipate needs along the way
  • Process Management: establish work rules, processes, standards and operating procedures
  • People Focused: look after your team, their needs, making sure they feel heard and involved

Overall, the main difference between leaders and managers is that leaders have people who follow them, whereas managers have people who work for them. By definition, to lead is ‘the initiative in an action; an example for others to follow’, and to manage ‘to be responsible for controlling or organising someone or something’.

So, should I be a manager or a leader?

A successful businessperson must be both a strong leader and manager. Leadership is about getting people to appreciate and believe in your vision and to work with you to achieve your goals. Managing is more about overseeing and making sure the day-to-day tasks are happening as they should. Leadership and management compliment one another, and we want to focus on a combination of both as the ideal. So, a great manager also has leadership skills, but a leader too will often have to undertake managerial roles.  When someone is in ‘management mode’, they are working towards the short-term goals and objectives. When  someone is ‘leadership mode’ they are envisioning ideas of the future, and laying out the groundwork for others to join along the journey of attaining that future goal or idea.

Although being a manger is not negative, a good manager with always strive to have leadership qualities. So, are you both a leader and manager, or one or the other? Some key leadership qualities we can all learn, no matter what role we’re in, as International Leadership coach Lolly Daskal outlines are:

L = Loyalty

E = Engagement

A = Authenticity

D = Dedication

E =Empathy

R = Respect

S = Servanthood

H = Humility

I = Integrity

P = Perseverance

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