8 Distinctions Between a Manager and a Leader

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  • 16 Jan 2024
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Consider the finest manager you've ever had.

What made this person so influential? Was it their tight commitment to corporate regulations, or their ability to efficiently distribute tasks?

Most likely not. What made this individual distinctive — and effective — was likely due to their emotional intelligence and long-term vision, rather than their ability to enforce regulations. Your favorite boss was probably more than simply a "manager." That individual was also a leader.

The contrast between leader and manager is one of the most essential things I've learned in my career – not all managers are leaders, and not all leaders are managers. Implementing short-term objectives and methods is one thing; motivating individuals to work toward a greater goal is quite another. I would contend that the most successful persons

To put it another way, a good leader knows when to lead and when to manage.

As the CEO of my own firm, I perform a significant amount of management. A personal stake in the long-term success of my firm encourages me to improve my leadership abilities as well. It's not always easy to "toggle" between these two priorities, but I'm most productive when I can combine the best of both. My management skills focus my leadership, and my leadership enhances my management with emotional intelligence.

So, what exactly is the distinction between leading and managing? Here are eight of the most essential contrasts between a leader and a manager, so you can start incorporating the best of both into your own.


1. Influence vs Power

Managers are usually given titles that confer authority. If you've ever worked for a boss who was all about enforcing rules and controlling results, you realize there's a vast difference between having authority and influencing others. Not all managers possess the capacity to inspire and motivate others, which is a key characteristic of leadership.

On the other hand, some of my company's most exciting employees are junior-level developers who come to work every day eager to create solutions that will benefit our clients. They don't have "manager" in their title, but their brilliant ideas and excitement inspire the rest of us to keep our company's long-term goal in mind – making them fantastic leaders.

2. Having Followers vs Having Subordinates

A manager's primary responsibility is to enforce business regulations and procedures. While this is a vital position, it does not invariably result in the development of a leader. Leadership is more about instilling trust and respect in others and, as a result, being seen as someone worth following.

Counting the amount of individuals that seek guidance from you (other than your direct reports) is one guaranteed approach to assess if you're a leader.

I worked for a software company before starting my own business. Coworkers often interrupted one of my coworkers to ask inquiries. He wasn't a manager, but many saw him as a leader because of his attitude and work ethic.

3. Focus on Culture vs Focus on Results

Measuring outcomes is one technique to secure a company's progress. True long-term growth, on the other hand, isn't only about statistics. It's about cultivating a culture of individuals who share your company's basic values and are inspired to produce their best job because they care.

To be an effective leader, you must shift your attention from numbers to people. It may seem scary to shift your gaze away from the spreadsheet in favor of a cup of coffee with a colleague, but just wait – when you invest in your people, your outcomes will improve along the road.

4. Future Focus vs Present Focus

I recall experiencing anxiety as a child when my parents told me I had to tidy my (really extremely filthy) room. The only thing that kept me neat in my room was the monetary reward (which was just $1) at the end of the week.

I began to think more strategically as I grew older. I wanted to buy a new bike, but I realized I'd need to earn a lot more than $1 each week to do so. So I asked my parents for extra duties, and after months of hard labor washing laundry and dishes, I was able to bring home my shining red bicycle.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I was thinking like a boss. While managers prefer to focus on the immediate duties at hand (such as cleaning the room to avoid getting in trouble), leaders have a vision for the future. Managers manage activities in order to cross them off a list, whereas leaders are motivated to complete tasks because they can see the broader picture.

5. Seeing Growth Opportunities vs Seeing Failure

Managers are often fixated on rules and outcomes, thus failure is more black and white for them. Keeping regulations in mind can be beneficial, but a hyper-focus on right and wrong means that one "bad" decision can damage morale and sap your team's enthusiasm.

Visionary leaders might identify the opportunities in perceived setbacks. Losing a large customer or receiving bad feedback from a team member provides a chance to re-evaluate procedures and come up with fresh alternatives.

6. Casting Visions vs Giving Instructions

Managers are skilled at persuading employees to obey the rules. Leaders, on the other hand, coach rather than coerce their followers.

An enthusiastic basketball coach was the finest instructor I've ever had. Sure, I had some wonderful lecturers and professors during my education, but my coach's hands-on approach really worked with me. He didn't simply give us instructions; he had a detailed game plan printed on his clipboard, which he eagerly discussed with us before each game. He didn't simply educate me how to be a technically sound basketball player; he also taught me on how to optimize my abilities and improve in areas where I was lacking. I wasn't simply a better athlete by the conclusion of the season; I was a better person.

7. Taking Risks vs Playing It Safe

Leaders aren't frightened of failure because they perceive it as an opportunity, which means they're more inclined to try new things. Managers are determined to stick to current maps in order to avoid making a wrong turn, but leaders frequently end up carving totally new paths for their teams to follow in order to achieve success.

8. Empowerment vs Efficiency

Managers are ultimately concerned with enhancing efficiency. They wish to save both money and time. Leaders, on the other hand, are prepared to invest time in developing others.

My basketball coach didn't have to spend an hour after practice to assist me work on my free shots, but his inefficient technique resulted in greater efficiency over time. Because he took the time to invest in me, I scored more points as the season continued.

The same idea applies in any organization: when we as leaders invest time in developing our team members that we may not believe we have, we will be able to assign larger and more significant jobs later on.

Final Thoughts

Leadership isn't always simple or efficient, but in the end, a strategic vision (and the desire to put it into action, even if it takes time) breeds more success and drive.

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