What Are the Significant Differences Between a Leader and a Manager?

As leadership and management go together hand in hand, people often forget that there are significant differences between the two. Due to the fact that being both a leader and a manager is needed in many roles today, it is important to recognize what those differences are. This is not only so that weaknesses can be identified and developed upon, but also so that the people around you receive the best from you and you in turn, get back the best from them.


Perhaps the first thing that springs to mind is that managers manage whilst leaders lead. While this may be a little simplistic, it does contain a central core of truth. A manager will manage a system or process that has already been developed, and ensure that it is carried out correctly. A leader is someone who develops those ideas and processes in the first place, and is an innovator.

Another difference between the two is that a manager may be appointed, and be accorded the respect his or her position infers, but they may never be a leader, as this is based on personal qualities. We have all worked in places where there are many people of equal seniority, but those with leadership qualities are respected and conferred with the most. Managers may have employees, but leaders develop a following through their actions.

One of the ways in which they do this is by encouraging the people around them. Generally speaking, a good leader will develop and coach, whereas a manager will, more often than not, either criticize or dictate to those around them in order to get them to conform. Both styles may be necessary on any given day, but only the leader will have the appreciation of those they have spoken with.

This, in part, is because a good leader has excellent communication skills, particularly when it comes to listening. Actually taking on board what someone has to say not only makes the other person feel valued, but also may spark further ideas and innovations in the leader themselves. A typical manager, on the other hand, is more likely to let another person have their say and no more, as they know that nothing will change.

A willingness to seek change for the best is also a major attribute for anyone with leadership skills. Rather than feeling limited by those things that they find around them, and any systems currently in place, they will actively seek out opportunities to create positive changes that lead to the greater good. On the flip side, managers are far more content with the status quo, and instead seek ways in which to make the current system they find themselves in more efficient.

In this sense, it could be argued that a manager is an imitator, whereas a leader is an innovator. This applies to not only a system or structure, but also on the style of management and leadership itself. Simply copying a leader does not make one a leader, and whilst imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, few things are ever as good as the original!

The best example of this is that when faced with any given situation, a manager is more likely to ask how and when a thing needs to be done, but a leader will ask what and why that same action needs to be performed. This inquisitiveness and willingness to look outside the box is what separates managerial and leadership skills, and although it may not be possible in every circumstance to show these leadership skills, keeping an open mind is vital to further development. The more closed the mind, the greater the unwillingness to change. Even the greatest leaders fall into this trap and quickly become simple managers and delegators.

Finally, another way of differentiating between a manager and a leader is to say that a manager does things the right way, but a leader will do the right thing. Doing things by the book limits flexibility and development, and those leaders who are brave enough to break the mold encourage innovation as they strive towards a horizon in the distance as opposed to keeping their eyes glued to the floor.

Richard McMunn, is the founder and director of the leading career website How2become.com. His aim is to help as many people as possible pass the recruitment process to secure the job they really want. The website offers a wide range of books, DVDs and courses for those who want to ensure they have every stage of the process covered. You can also connect with Richard at How2become on YouTube


Leaders and managers both need innovative and day-to-day tools to help them run their businesses. We recommend the following:

  • Macromatix – Back office solutions such as inventory management, operations, workforce, financial and reporting.
  • Schoox – Online training you create or existing courses to further education.
  • HotSchedules – Web based scheduling tools.
  • Go Hire – Streamlined and automated hiring solutions.
  • Red Book Solutions – Digital and hardcopy playbooks offering standardization.

2 responses to “What Are the Significant Differences Between a Leader and a Manager?

  1. indeed there are such differences here, could not agree more

  2. Certainly. You can differentiate easily one from being a leader or a manager. Also a person being a manager tends to just sit, collect tasks and disseminate to his people and do nothing but command and nag for the rest of his life. If you know what I mean. This post really is something.

    live chat for ecommerce

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s