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manager vs leader

Manager vs Leader: What You Need to Know about the Difference


Manager vs leader. Do you know the difference?


I have found that manager and leader are either used interchangeably or that manager has a negative rep to it while the term leader is praised. Neither is correct! And ideally, you should strive to have the essence of both in you.


While there is some overlap, both roles possess distinct skills and characteristics. Also, both parts are crucial to the success of organizations, and none is more important than the other.

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My focus lies on being a good manager in the short- to medium-term. Why is that? Because of my current role, I have to direct routine tasks of non-managerial staff to achieve my team's assigned goals. This requires me to put formal process and control into my team. This screams for being an excellent manager and has little to do with leadership.


However, I want to be recognized as an industry leader and a role model for other women in high-powered jobs in the long-term. That makes me think a lot about the qualities and skills of good managers and leaders.


To get you a kick-start on your management and leadership journey, I summarise below what I learned about manager vs leader.


Essential Knowledge on Manager vs Leader5 difference between leader and manager


1. Follow a Vision vs Setting a Vision

A leader sets a vision. A leader can look beyond the current possibilities. This is important because challenging the status quo is needed for new developments and progress.


However, great ideas and vision are nothing without execution. And this is where management will do its magic.


Management can break down a vision into an organization's mission and goal. From this, they create a roadmap to achieve the vision. This will trickle down the levels of management and will result in individual team's objectives and targets. The managers will be responsible for putting the vision to life.


2. Work in the Present vs Look to the Future

Leaders have the long view and paint a picture of what the future could look like. There is no regard for the here and now and its limitations.


The here and now, though, is where the manager operates. A manager's view is limited to short- and mid-term activities, depending on their organizational level. First-time managers will primarily work in a time frame that spans daily activities and planning for one year ahead. However, executing the plans to reach the long-term vision and goals is crucial.


3. Systems and Processes vs Relationships

Leaders focus on people. They have a clear understanding of the different stakeholder groups and will engage them accordingly to realize their vision by exciting them and entangling them in their view of the world. And this is where they will spend the majority of their time!


Managers are faced with achieving goals. A manager will build an efficient structure to achieve her team's objectives, which will include rules, processes, standards, systems, and the like. People are managed through individual objectives and goals and their performance in the set structure.


4. Fans vs Employees

Additionally, a leader can inspire through their vision and ideas and engages people to follow them. A necessary ingredient for realizing their vision and building their brand.


A prominent example of this is Elon Musk. Like a magician, he transforms all sorts of people into raging fans giving him wider reach and visibility and creating credibility through social proof. And all of that for free!


Managers and their teams operate in transactional relationships which specify and clarify responsibilities and expectations. Employees are rewarded with regular paychecks and organizational benefits.


5. Uniqueness vs Conformity

Leaders are comfortable with being different, and this uniquess is necessary to be heard and recognised.


Managers in difference are faced with the need to operate in larger systems and produce tangible results in the now. This leads to conformity crucial to succeeding in their space.

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