Manager vs. Leader: Key Differences & Qualities

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In your daily efforts to pursue the company’s goals and mission, you might not consider the distinction between a manager vs. leader. Many organizations use the terms interchangeably. However, while both drive positive outcomes for your organization, there are key differences and qualities between managers and leaders.

Ideally, you want to be both a good manager and a good leader. Understanding the differences and qualities of a manager vs. a leader can assist you in developing the leadership skills that can help your career and your company. 

What is a Manager?

Within an organization, a manager is a position given to someone. That role has certain management functions or responsibilities, such as planning, organizing, and controlling.

Typically, managers are selected to meet a company’s goals and objectives, and they focus on this. Managers have superiors who hold them responsible for their actions and their employees’ actions.

What Is a Leader?

When comparing leading vs. management, leaders are found in all levels of organizations. People follow leaders because of their actions, personalities, behaviors, and beliefs. Leaders demonstrate their passion for work and are interested in your success.

People become leaders because other employees are inspired and encouraged, often leading to higher productivity and more admiration for leaders. Leaders tend to be agents of change, visionary, creative, adaptive, and agile.

Despite the long-running debate of leaders being born vs. leaders being made, effective leaders display a common group of characteristics that play a role in developing your leadership skills. 

Among other things, a strong leader: 

  • Influences others
  • Displays transparency
  • Innovates
  • Has integrity and accountability
  • Acts decisively
  • Demonstrates resilience

Leading vs. managing doesn’t happen in an instant. However, these characteristics can be brought out by developing specific leadership skills. 

Key Differences Between a Manager and a Leader

All managers aren’t good leaders, and all leaders aren’t necessarily good managers. 

There are four main ways that distinguish a manager from a leader:

1. Process vs. Vision

Managers in your company carry out strategies, planning, and tasks to achieve the company’s goals. They are focused on getting things done through tried-and-true processes: budgeting, organizational structuring, and staffing. 

Leaders are more visionary in guiding change to help move the company forward. A leader is looking farther down the road to spot opportunities your company can seize on to excel.   

2. Organizing vs. Aligning

Managers look to break down the company’s long-term goals into short-term achievable segments and assign the resources to pursue those individual projects. The activities and tasks are coordinated to reach a desired outcome.

Leaders are more focused on aligning and influencing team members to get behind the business’s initiatives to execute the tasks to reach organizational goals. 

3. How and When vs. What and Why?

Managers and leaders even ask different questions in businesses.

When faced with the work that needs to be done, a manager’s emphasis is on carrying out a plan or process to achieve a specific outcome. The manager asks employees how and when.

But a leader asks what and why. The leader may question someone who ranks higher in the organization about what’s best for the company. And if something goes wrong, a leader will step in and ask what can be learned from the failure.

4. Position vs. Quality

In most organizations, you earn being a manager, but it is a title. It lets people know your place in the company hierarchy and gives you a role with responsibilities. Those who answer to you are your direct reports and perform their work because you instruct them to.

However, if you’re a leader, people in your organization choose to follow you because of who you are. You may or may not be a manager. People follow you because of your actions, making leadership a quality, not a title. Team members at all levels of the business are inspired, encouraged, and engaged to contribute to the organization’s success.

Why Are Leadership Skills Important?

No matter where you are in your organization, leadership skills are important — to you, your teammates, and the company overall. Here are some of the top leadership skills to develop:

  • Emotional intelligence 
  • Communications
  • Empowerment
  • Problem-solving
  • Relationship-building
  • Financial literacy

If you’re early in your career, developing leadership skills allows you to put those skills on display. That can get you noticed in an organization and line you up for a possible promotion.

As a new manager, leadership skills can boost your performance by encouraging and inspiring your team to follow you, instead of simply carrying out your commands. By increasing your effectiveness, you can raise the effectiveness of your team.

Leadership skills for executives or entrepreneurs can go a long way in getting the most value possible out of your team, leaving you the time you need for more strategic work.

How to Encourage and Teach Leadership to Managers

Whether you’re looking to boost your career, improve your company’s performance, or build your own business, there are many paths to developing leadership skills. 

Make it a habit to keep up with technology, analyze different forms of media, practice opening yourself to new ideas, volunteer for leadership positions inside and outside your company, and attend events, conferences, panels, and classes related to your industry or work.

Also, consider personalized learning and development platforms like Sayge. With an online platform for coaching and manager training, Sayge builds relationships between coaches and coachees and provides the infrastructure, tools, and processes to teach leadership skills that are effective in practice.

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