Manager Vs Leader: What Makes Them Different?

There has been an ongoing debate about manager vs leader. Although some people think they are synonymous, things aren’t just like that. There are plenty of types of leadership: charismatic, democratic, situational, servant, etc., with equally many types of managers. As such, today we are going to focus on understanding better the differences between the two concepts and see who will win in the manager vs leader battle.

Manager vs Leader – the Final Countdown

Perhaps the main difference everybody can think about is the fact that a leader has people who follow them, while a manager only has people who work for them. But let’s have a look at other differences as well:

1. Telling vs Selling

A manager is simply a person who tells others what to do, whereas a leader sells people an idea and convinces them to participate in it by their own will.

2. Details vs Direction

The manager usually decides all by themselves the meetings, the details, and the work procedure. Meanwhile, a leader tries to get everybody interested in what they are discussing and is interested in receiving more feedback.

3. Minimizing vs Taking Risks

From their position as a manager, these people need to minimize the risks they have. For example, they might focus more on cutting down the time assigned to certain projects. At the same time, a leader is not afraid of taking risks, knowing that this can lead to higher profits in the future.

4. Instructing vs Encouraging People

Working with employees, the manager needs to instruct people about their job and other tasks they need to fulfill. The hierarchy is clear here, with the employees respecting the guidelines. Meanwhile, a leader encourages people to come up with their own ideas and ways of solving various tasks. They know employees can sometimes provide some great solutions.

5. Objectives vs Vision

A manager focuses more on the clear objectives they have, and they work more on respecting the plans. Their goal is to reach as many objectives as possible within a certain period. On the other hand, a leader has a long-term vision that enables them to be flexible with achieving the objectives. Whether they decide on a different approach or simply change an objective for another, they are more focused on the overall vision.

6. Expectations vs Growth

Another aspect of the endless manager vs leader battle is the difference between meeting expectations and stimulating new growth. A manager considers its mission accomplished when the goals for a certain period were met. Meanwhile, a leader doesn’t stop there and sees the current goals as a starting point. In a leader’s opinion, a company is limited only by how far they want to reach.

7. Bottom Line vs Horizon

The bottom line and the numbers are characteristic more for a manager than for a leader. The manager is happy if the team got everything done and still fit within a certain budget. At the same time, the leader is already looking at the next phase of development, thinking about what can the team do more.

8. Accepting vs Challenging the Status Quo

One of the things people are unhappy with when it comes to managers is the fact that they usually don’t try to fix anything if things go well. If they manage to achieve their objectives, they don’t try to change anything, whereas a leader is constantly asking what can be done better? Whether it’s cutting down on the time assigned to a task or making an employee a little happier, they’ll always be up for it.

9. Seeing a Problem vs an Opportunity

Just like we explained until now, the manager is more interested in fixing things before they get the blame for it, in case something goes wrong. Meanwhile, a leader sees the opportunity in a difficult situation. They encourage people to express their opinions, as well as their solutions to the issue at hand. As such, they are more likely to find a more profitable solution than a manager who is stuck with seeing it all as a problem.

10. Short-Term vs Long-Term Thinking

A good example for the short-term vs long-term thinking in the manager vs leader confrontation is a capital purchase. If there isn’t enough money, the manager will say that the company can’t afford it now. Meanwhile, a leader is going to pay more attention to the possible profit that can be gained by making an investment. They focus on the future and on the consequences of their effort to have a new capital purchase.

11. Tradition vs Innovation

The typical manager is more of a ‘follow-the-map’ kind of person. They don’t stray from the known path and encourage people to follow the strict directions they received. At the same time, a leader knows that whoever follows the same path will never reach new places. As such, they are inclined to test new things and encourage people to do the same.

12. Approving vs Motivating

In general, managers only approve of a positive behavior and confirm it. Leaders, on the other hand, try their best to motivate employees and to get the best results from them. They appreciate their work entirely and don’t mention it only when they want to obtain something.

13. Establishing vs Breaking Rules

Another thing people dislike about the typical manager is the fact that they just stick to the script and don’t allow people to do as they please. They tend to be very strict about rules and directions, which might affect people’s creativity and motivation. At the same time, a leader is not so bound to rules. This allows them to find possible problems that hold workers back and thus, improve the entire structure.

Here you have a TED talk held by Simon Sinek about leadership, along with a couple of examples he gives:

To draw a conclusion, these are just 13 of the things that make people take sides in the manager vs leader conflict. Naturally, the 13 differences presented above are only general guidelines and don’t apply to any manager or leader. However, it’s good to pay attention to the definitions when referring to one or another.

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