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Managers Vs. Leaders – What’s the Difference?

Posted on November 26, 2013
Rachel ButlerWritten by Rachel Butler | Email author

Every day I hear the terms “manager” and “leader” used interchangeably. However, when you really start to explore what it means to be a leader, you will find that there are distinct and important differences between the two titles. While a manager can be a leader, the two terms are not mutually exclusive.

Managers have people below them/ Leaders have people behind them

  • Managers supervise others. They are tasked with monitoring the performance of their subordinates and ensuring organizational objectives are met.
  • Leaders inspire a shared vision. They influence individuals to achieve a common goal through trust and commitment. Leaders envision the future and light the way for their employees to see the path to that future.

Managers control/Leaders challenge

  • Managers control processes and outcomes. They are responsible for adhering to deadlines and budget and ensuring that tasks are executed in an efficient and effective manner.
  • Leaders ensure their employees are developing. They challenge their employees and are always looking for new and better ways to do things. They create a safe environment where risks and mistakes are allowed and encouraged, which enables employees to learn and grow.

Managers delegate/Leaders motivate

  • Managers ensure their employees’ responsibilities are fulfilled. They plan, organize, and direct. Managers monitor progress and make sure expectations are met.
  • Leaders provide encouragement, motivations, and inspiration. They are their employees’ cheerleader and provide the energy for moving forward.

Is leadership the next step after management?

manager-vs-leader-what's the difference?Leadership is not simply an advanced form of management. It is important to see that there is a difference between the two titles in order to have the right people in the right roles. I have seen in many organizations employees who have proven to be successful managers are then promoted to leadership positions. However, as you can see from the points above, leadership is not simply the next step after mastering management.

Leadership is a different mindset, and requires separate skill sets, actions, behaviors, and competencies from management. While the jury is still out on whether leaders are born or developed, one thing is for certain: Both management and leadership are needed for an organization to be successful. Management plays a critical role in managing the performance of both organizational groups and individuals to achieve business objectives.  Leadership is necessary for influencing others and managing the changes and innovations in today’s business world.

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