The Subtle Differences Between a Leader and a Manager

The terms ‘manager’ and ‘leader’ are often interchanged. It is almost as if some people think that both descriptions mean the same thing. Management and leadership are two totally different roles yet they are pretty much inseparable. In my experience, I’ve observed that there are many good managers that are not very good leaders, and some very good leaders that are poor managers.It is important to note that in the workplace today, anyone in a supervisory role and up needs to understand and use both management and leadership skills. The late US Navy Admiral Grace Hopper once said that “You cannot manage men into battle. You manage things; you lead people.” This statement tells us that there are subtle differences between a leader and a manager. You manage things and processes, you lead people. The list can go on and on if we compare the two but we will focus on the top two things that make the difference.Managers Have Subordinates; Leaders Have FollowersIn the corporate world, managers do what they are expected to do because they are subordinates, too. They report to senior managers who give them specific tasks to execute. Managers do their jobs because this is what they are supposed to and they expect their subordinates to comply with the company’s expectations not because they have no choice but because they are rewarded for doing so in the form of work incentive. When push comes to shove, managers can exercise formal authority-backed up by company policies.Leaders, on the other hand, do not have formal subordinates. Leaders have followers who will obey and listen to their ideas and follow them even without formal authoritarian control. Leaders do not need formal authority because they are charismatic and lead their people into transformation. The act of “following” a leader is voluntary. The act of “following” a manager is a requirement. This is best demonstrated in political and religious organizations. People have nothing to lose if they do not do not follow a leader but they have everything to lose if they do not follow a manager’s orders.Managers Accomplish Tasks; Leaders InnovateManagers typically check if the tasks are done. There is a set of roles that managers expect their people or subordinates to fulfill such as completion of production requirement, compliance to company policies, and cope with the day-the-day problems that occur at work. Managers are also good in organizing things and this is shown through the details of their plans and how they are able to meet the budget with few available resources. Managers plan how things need to get done and they also ensure that the plans are executed in the most efficient way possible.Leaders, on the other hand, focus on effectiveness. Leaders are not focused on the tasks that need to be completed but by how innovation will come to play in the organization; they have the long-range vision of where the organization is going. Leaders make the difference by transforming their vision into action. These visions are process changes in the workplace that will take the organization into new heights. Leaders also find resources instead of being constrained by budgets and existing policies. Leaders communicate to people; they let the people around them understand why the goals are in place and how the employees can align their personal goals to the company’s objectives.Leadership + Management: A Must-Have CombinationGreat leadership is promising. It will take the company or organization to new horizons. The people will be motivated by the leader’s charismatic influence and ability to inspire, persuade, and build relationships. However, we need to factor in the skills of a manager that a leader needs to make this vision come into reality.Without a manager controlling costs and seeing to it that the things go well as planned, the organization is bound to disintegrate. For a person to effectively manage and lead a group, he should have a certain degree of mastery of a manager’s skills and a leader’s vision, passion, and creativity.

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