7 Key Differences Between Leaders and Managers

Leaders vs. managers

Once upon a time, leaders were seen as the creative brawn that spawned new businesses and ventures, while managers were those who were simply hired to help manage the team and execute their processes.

These days, however, leadership and management are often used interchangeably. Still, there are key differences between the two that should not be lost.

The Leadership Difference

The reality is that a leader leads people by example and works to empower and raise up the next generation of leaders within an organization. Leaders inspire, motivate, and guide their team to success, encouraging, equipping, and empowering, while a manager is simply focused on overseeing the day-to-day operations and hitting milestones.

Often people think of leadership as a title or position, but it actually has nothing to do with either of those things. It’s also not the most charismatic person in the room.

Leaders are the people who get behind a company’s vision and invest time and effort into making that vision come to life. As they do, they inspire others on the team to do the same, so that everyone contributes to the business’s success and works as a unified entity.

Nutshell? People follow and look up to leaders. People merely work for managers. While both can have their place in an organization, in an ideal world, you’ll find that unicorn manager who also happens to be a true leader. If you do, treat that person like the gold they are!

Below are 7 other key differences between leaders and managers, so you can better understand how to use them in your business.

Vision vs. Execution

Leaders have a vision for where they want to take the organization and are able to communicate that vision effectively to those around them. They focus on inspiring others to reach their goals.

Managers are focused on executing that vision by setting objectives and ensuring that tasks are completed on time and within budget. One sounds exciting, and one sounds a little less so, but the reality is both are necessary for a successful and healthy business.

Big Picture vs. Detail Oriented

Leaders focus on the big picture—what needs to be done in order for their team or organization to succeed—while managers focus more on the details, such as assigning tasks, monitoring progress, and providing feedback.

That’s not to say leaders don’t also provide feedback and monitor progress, especially if it’s a leader working in a managerial role. However, ultimately, leaders are really the big-picture people in your organization who can envision the company’s direction and goals and help those around them catch the vision.

Inspiration vs. Direction

Leaders––often, not always––have a certain charisma and know how to motivate people to get things done and inspire action.

Managers provide direction by laying out specific tasks that need to be completed for a goal or project to be successful; they offer guidance rather than inspiration.

Though you certainly need creative inspiration and vision to grow a business, people with the ability to lay out step-by-step guidance on how to get there are just as vital. Leaders might be the people who say, “This is what I see unfolding and where I see us going, so let’s make it happen.”

The managers might be the ones who step up and say, “I understand the vision and direction you’re aiming for… let’s do x, y, and z to get there and start assigning roles and tasks.”

Innovation vs. Structure

Leaders encourage innovation by creating an environment where creative solutions can emerge and think outside the box when it comes to problem-solving. Managers prefer structure; they create systems and processes that help teams stay organized and efficient while working towards a goal or objective.

Psychologists posit that most people are either “right-brained” vs. “left-brained” thinkers. You might find many of your leaders to be more right-brained and creative, while your managers may often lean more left-brained and logic-minded.

A leader might know what they want to do and where they envision ending up, while a manager might be better at the nuts and bolts and how-to aspects of getting there. As you can imagine, both are needed to steer the proverbial ship.

Emotional Intelligence vs. Logical Intelligence

Leaders understand human behavior; they know how to read people’s emotions to build relationships with those around them; they know when it’s time for tough love or gentle encouragement for team members to reach their goals successfully.

Managers rely more on logical intelligence; they use data analysis tools and metrics to make decisions based on facts, rather than feelings or opinions. Leaders are known to build circles of influence, while managers are more known to build circles of power.

Risk Taking vs. Risk Avoidance

Leaders take risks because they believe in their vision, even if there is no guarantee of success. They also recognize failure as an opportunity for growth. There are lessons to be mined from mistakes made along the way, and leaders embrace both successes and failures.

Managers avoid risk at all costs because they want results quickly, with minimal losses incurred. They often focus more on short-term successes than long-term goals.

People Focused vs. Task Focused

Finally, leaders view people as individuals with unique strengths who should be celebrated, while managers tend to see people as resources whose tasks should be managed efficiently.

This key difference is evident when it comes to decision-making. Leaders prioritize what’s best for the individual, while managers prioritize what’s best for the business. Both approaches are good and right, but it’s always better to be balanced if the goal is to run a successful business with a happy, healthy work culture.

Understanding these 7 key differences between leaders and managers can help determine who fits these roles in your organization. A leader has broader responsibilities than a manager because he/she sees beyond current projects and focuses instead on future growth opportunities.

Having both roles within your business allows everyone involved—from employees to executives—to benefit from different perspectives on how best to achieve success together.

And if you’re wondering if you’re a leader yourself, simply look at the people around you who come to you for guidance, even if they don’t work directly for you or under you. The more people who come to you who are outside of your purview, so to speak, the more likely it is that you’re seen as a leader!

Let StellaPop help you find your dream team of leaders and managers!


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