Manager vs. Leader

There is a common misconception that the term “leader” is synonymous with “manager”.  Although quite similar, they differ on many aspects (besides the obvious spelling differences). It can be said that there is a spectrum from one extreme of leadership qualities on one end to management qualities on the other; however, it’s important to draw from both attributes when in a workplace environment.
Let’s untangle the differences between being a manager vs. a leader:

  1. Planning vs. Leading:
    Managers are typically responsible for planning, organizing, leading and controlling. They also have the power to hire, promote, discipline, and fire employees based on their behaviour and performance. Even though a manager may have the task of leading projects or teams at time, it doesn’t necessarily make them a strong leader. Some managers (as you may have come across) don’t have very strong leadership qualities in them and vice versa.
    On the flip side, leaders tend to be more motivational and inspirational. They typically foster trust and align followers to the teams’ vision.
  2. Authoritative vs. Participative
    Although there are many management styles that are effective depending on the situation, a common one is the authoritative approach. This is when the manager has more controlling and directive tactics, dictating the policies and procedures.
    Leaders take more of a participative and democratic approach. They are more of a mentor, offering guidance to their followers. This style usually proves to be more effective and receptive by employees.
  3. Reactive vs. Proactive
    Managers are more reactive – meaning, they do not tend to plan ahead for problems or opportunities, living more in the now.
    Leaders are proactive in the sense that they are always planning ahead and trying to avoid problems before they happen. If you’ve ever been hit by a ball, for example, it hurts less if you see it coming because you could brace yourself.
  4. Subordinates vs. Followers
    Managers have employees whereas leaders have followers. Simply having the title “Manager” allows them to be seen as authoritative and in control. Employees follow a manager’s orders because they feel like they have to.
    Leaders’ followers are dedicated and want to listen to the leader because they like them and want to.

It’s important to understand how both titles are similar and how they vary. Throughout your career, you’re going to interact with a variety of managers and encounter quite a few natural leaders. Being able to understand those around you will help you adjust to situations and react accordingly. You should also take the time to think about your own personality – do you feel you’re more of a manager or leader?