What’s the difference between managers and leaders?

Both are important, and both are essential to the success of your business. Some people may have management jobs, but they also act as leaders. The most significant quality separating the two lies in the way they motivate others. Leaders think beyond problems, have a vision, and inspire others to convert challenges into opportunities.

Understanding who your leaders and who your managers are will help you create an organizational structure that not only addresses core business functions, but also builds morale, culture, and forward thinking for the future.

Managers versus Leaders

As noted by Gene Wade, founder and CEO of UniversityNow, the roles of leaders and managers may be similar, but “the best managers are also leaders … you can do both, but you have to take the time to cultivate it.”

Consider these key concepts in identifying your managers versus leaders:

  • Managers count value; leaders create it. Leaders generate value over and above that which their team creates. Leading by example and by enabling others are hallmarks of action-based leadership.
  • Circles of power and circles of influence. While managers create the former, leaders focus their energy on developing the latter. Management involves controlling a group to accomplish a specific goal. Leadership is the ability to influence and motivate others to contribute towards organizational success. Influence and inspiration, not power or control, differentiate leaders from managers.
  • Managers execute business vision in a systemic way. Leaders have the innate ability to rally employees around that vision. Because a leader’s belief in the vision is so strong, others naturally want to follow them. Leaders tend to take risks in pursuit of that vision. Managers can see all the intricate moving parts and understand how to make them align. Some managers can inspire and some leaders can systematically execute, but these are not their strengths.
  • Leaders innovate, while managers administer. Leaders give birth to new ideas and move the rest of the organization into a forward-thinking mode. They constantly keep their eyes on the horizon and develop new strategies and tactics. Managers maintain what has already been established. They have to keep their eyes on the bottom line and keep control, or else there might be disorder within the organization.
  • Leaders inspire trust, while managers rely on control. A leader moves others to be their best and knows how to set the tempo for the rest of the team. As noted by Wade, “Leadership is not what you do – it’s what others do in response to you.” If others decide to jump on board because you’ve inspired them, then you have created a bond of trust within your company.
  • Managers ask “how” and “when.” Leaders ask “what” and “why.” To be a leader, a person must question why certain actions occur. Sometimes, this means challenging others, including their own supervisors. A manager’s job is to ask “how” and “when” so they can execute plans accordingly.

As you develop your management and leadership team, consider partnering with the seasoned experts at StaffMasters. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.


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