Leaders and Managers, 7 Differences Between them

Leaders and Managers, 7 Differences Between them

7 Differences Between Leaders and Managers

Leaders and managers are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. While both roles are essential for any organization, they have different functions, skills, and goals. In this article, we will explore the main differences between leaders and managers, and how you can develop both qualities to succeed in your career.

Key Takeaways

Leaders and managers are different but complementary roles in any organization.

Leaders create a vision, inspire people, innovate, take risks, and focus on people.

Managers execute a plan, direct people, optimize, avoid risks, and focus on systems.

You can develop both leadership and management skills by knowing yourself, learning from others, practicing your skills, and reflecting on your experiences.

What is a leader?

A leader is someone who inspires, motivates, and influences others to achieve a common vision. A leader has a clear idea of where they want to go and why, and they communicate that effectively to their followers. A leader is also willing to take risks, innovate, and challenge the status quo. A leader focuses on the big picture and the long-term outcomes.

Some examples of leaders are:

  • Steve Jobs, who revolutionized the technology industry with his vision and creativity.
  • Martin Luther King Jr., who led the civil rights movement with his charisma and courage.
  • Oprah Winfrey, who built a media empire with her passion and empathy.

What is a manager?

A manager is someone who plans, organizes, and controls the resources and processes of an organization. A manager has a specific set of tasks and responsibilities, and they ensure that they are completed efficiently and effectively. A manager is also accountable for the results, quality, and performance of their team. A manager focuses on the details and the short-term objectives.

Some examples of managers are:

  • Jeff Bezos, who oversees the operations and strategy of Amazon.com.
  • Angela Merkel, who governs Germany with her pragmatism and competence.
  • Bill Gates, who managed Microsoft with his intelligence and discipline.

What are the differences between leaders and managers?

Here are some of the key differences between leaders and managers:

  • Leaders create a vision; managers execute a plan. Leaders have a clear and compelling vision of the future that they share with their followers. Managers have a plan of action that they implement to achieve the goals set by the leaders.
  • Leaders inspire people, managers direct people. Leaders motivate and empower their followers to pursue the vision with enthusiasm and commitment. Managers instruct and supervise their team members to perform their tasks according to the plan.
  • Leaders innovate, managers optimize. Leaders seek new ways of doing things, challenge assumptions, and experiment with different solutions. Managers follow established procedures, adhere to standards, and improve existing processes.
  • Leaders take risks, managers avoid risks. Leaders embrace uncertainty and ambiguity and are willing to fail and learn from their mistakes. Managers seek certainty and stability and are cautious about making changes or decisions.
  • Leaders focus on people; managers focus on systems. Leaders build relationships, trust, and loyalty with their followers. They care about their personal growth and development. Managers rely on systems, rules, and policies to coordinate their team. They care about their productivity and efficiency.

How can you be both a leader and a manager?

While leaders and managers have different roles and skills, they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, most successful organizations need both types of people to achieve their goals. Moreover, most professionals need to be both leaders and managers at different times and situations in their careers.

Here are some tips on how to develop both leadership and management skills:

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. Assess your own abilities as a leader and a manager and identify your areas of improvement. Seek feedback from others, take personality tests, or use self-evaluation tools.
  • Learn from others. Observe how other leaders and managers behave in your organization or industry and emulate their best practices. Seek mentors or coaches who can guide you and offer advice. Read books or articles on leadership or management topics.
  • Practice your skills. Look for opportunities to apply your leadership or management skills in your current or future projects. Volunteer for challenging assignments that require you to lead or manage others. Join clubs or organizations that allow you to practice your skills in a safe environment.
  • Reflect on your experiences. After each leadership or management experience, review what went well and what went wrong. Analyze what you learned from it, and how you can improve next time. Write down your reflections in a journal or share them with others.


  • To be a better leader, you should:
    • Communicate your vision clearly and frequently
    • Empower your followers to take ownership and initiative
    • Recognize and reward their achievements and contributions
    • Provide them with support and guidance
    • Encourage them to share their ideas and opinions
  • To be a better manager, you should:
    • Plan your tasks and activities carefully and realistically
    • Organize your resources and processes efficiently and effectively
    • Control your quality and performance standards consistently and objectively
    • Monitor your progress and outcomes regularly and accurately
    • Evaluate your results and improvement opportunities critically and constructively

Leaders and Managers: A Growing Global Demand

The roles of leaders and managers are crucial for the success of any organization, especially in times of uncertainty and change. However, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc., only 11% of surveyed companies have a strong leadership bench, meaning they have enough current and potential leaders to meet their future business needs. This indicates a gap between the demand and supply of effective leaders and managers in the global market.

What is driving the demand for leaders and managers?

There are several factors that contribute to the increasing demand for leaders and managers in various industries and regions. Some of these factors are:

  • The rapid pace of technological innovation and digital transformation, which requires leaders and managers to adapt to new ways of working, learning, and collaborating.
  • The social and political turbulence, which creates challenges and opportunities for leaders and managers to navigate complex and diverse stakeholder expectations, values, and interests.
  • The changing nature of work, which involves more flexibility, autonomy, and hybrid arrangements for employees, requiring leaders and managers to adopt human-centric leadership styles that foster authenticity, empathy, and adaptivity.
  • The talent shortage and retention issues, which make it harder for organizations to attract, develop, and retain high-performing leaders and managers who can drive growth, innovation, and engagement.

How can organizations meet the demand for leaders and managers?

To address the growing demand for leaders and managers, organizations need to adopt proactive and strategic approaches to identify, develop, and retain their current and potential leaders. Some of the best practices that organizations can implement are:

  • Conducting regular assessments of their leadership pipeline and bench strength, using data-driven tools and methods to evaluate the current and future needs, gaps, and risks.
  • Creating compelling career paths and opportunities for leaders and managers at all levels, offering them challenging assignments, mentoring, coaching, feedback, recognition, and rewards.
  • Leveraging open-source change strategies that involve employees throughout the change process, reducing change fatigue and increasing employee engagement and commitment.
  • Building a culture of learning and development that supports continuous improvement, experimentation, collaboration, and feedback among leaders and managers.

By investing in their leaders and managers, organizations can not only meet the growing global demand for these roles but also gain a competitive advantage in the market. According to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2022-2023 report, relatable organizations that focus on leader and manager effectiveness are more likely to achieve high growth, resilience, sustainability, and well-being outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are some of the benefits of being a leader?
A: Some of the benefits of being a leader are:

  • You can make a positive impact on others
  • You can achieve personal satisfaction
  • You can enhance your reputation
  • You can expand your network
  • You can advance your career

Q: What are some of the challenges of being a leader?
A: Some of the challenges of being a leader are:

  • You have to deal with resistance or conflict
  • You have to cope with stress or pressure
  • You have to balance multiple demands
  • You have to take responsibility for failures
  • You have to keep learning and growing

Q: What are some of the benefits of being a manager?
A: Some of the benefits of being a manager are:

  • You can ensure quality and efficiency
  • You can achieve organizational goals
  • You can demonstrate your competence
  • You can gain recognition and rewards
  • You can develop your team

Q: What are some of the challenges of being a manager?
A: Some of the challenges of being a manager are:

  • You have to deal with complexity and uncertainty
  • You have to cope with change or disruption
  • You have to balance resources and constraints
  • You have to manage performance and expectations
  • You have to keep up with trends and technologies

Q: How can I switch between being a leader and a manager?
A: There is no fixed formula for switching between being a leader and a manager, as it depends on the context and the situation. However, some general guidelines are:

  • Assess the needs and expectations of your stakeholders, such as your boss, your team, your customers, etc.
  • Align your actions and behaviors with the goals and values of your organization or project.
  • Adapt your style and approach based on the feedback and results you receive.





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