By: Helios on August 25th, 2015

Print/Save as PDF

Leaders Vs. Managers: Are They Really Mutually Exclusive?

Business Management & Strategy

For the majority of American’s, at one point or another we have probably had some sort of authority figure directing our work. If you are one of those who decided to skip this step and go into business yourself at the age of 15, I applaud you! For the rest of us, we have had some incarnation of a boss or supervisor who has directed our daily activities at some point in our lives.

Yet, is that boss or supervisor a manager or a leader? Is there really a difference in those two little, yet powerful, words?  Depending on your own life experience, these two words can have different meanings to different people. When I say “manager”, I would bet 9 times out of 10, you probably have visions of a task master standing over you telling you get something done by 5 PM. On the other hand, when we use the word “leader”, we conjure images of someone we look to, and for, when the chips are down or when we need a shot in the arm to keep fighting the good fight. But beyond the general differences that I will outline below, we need to also ask ourselves, can a manager be a leader and can a leader also be a manager. In short, I believe a person can be both a leader and a manager. This will be important for your organization since a lot of companies “dual” hat their leadership teams.


Leaders Vs. Managers: Are They Really Mutually Exclusive?


  • Leaders help create a vision of the future
  • Leaders seek change
  • Leaders think long term
  • Leaders appeal through effective communication


  • Managers execute a vision
  • Managers seek stability
  • Managers think short term
  • Managers direct daily activities

While there are noticeable differences between the lists provided above, managers and leaders don’t have to be classified into one category.  Why can’t our managers think more strategically and seek change within their area of influence. Or better yet, partner with their supervisors to help shape the organization in a way that moves the company forward. On the flip side, more leaders should take the time to understand how their visions can be implemented more effectively. Instead of giving general direction such as “we want to be the market leader in product XYZ”, does the leader truly understand how execute this vision statement from a daily perspective. Sometimes, our leaders forget the man hours, the sweat and tears it takes to fulfill a vision statement. Getting back in the “muck” with your employees shows you care, shows you understand and shows you appreciate the sacrifices it takes to make the organization the best it can be.