Top 20 Differences between Managers and Leaders

Statues of general macarthurManagers and leaders may have similarities, such as they both influence people and help in attaining the success of an organization. But management and leadership are two different things.

A number of authors have already attempted to compare and illustrate the distinctions between a manager and a leader. Alas, some of them have described managers as bad managers and are less favorable than leaders.

I believe that managers and leaders are both great people, especially if they are doing their respective jobs and duties the right way. Both management and leadership are crucial in any organization and in any attempt to achieve a common goal. They are both important positions that everyone should greatly value.

To know whether you are a true manager or a genuine leader, you have to understand their distinctions. Below is list of top 20 differences between managers and leaders:


1. Managers manage things; leaders lead people

Management is structural, while leadership is personal. Managers put emphasis on systems, tools, structures and functions in an organization, while leaders emphasize its people and their personalities and behaviors.

2. Managers divide things to get things done; leaders unite people to get things done

Management is a process that consists of many steps to attain a certain goal. Leadership is a practice that involves influencing people to unite and take those steps to attain such goal. In other words, managers assign people, leaders align people.

3. Managers motivate; leaders inspire

Managers use motivation – they influence or force people to do the things they are supposed to do, whether they like it or not, using a reward system. Leaders use inspiration – they influence or inspire people to do the things they love to do using voluntarism. They practice self-leadership. In other words, managers influence people from the outside, while leaders influence them from the inside.

4. Managers are reactive; while leaders are proactive

Managers innovate by adapting to change. On the other hand, leaders innovate by creating change.

5. Managers minimize risks; leaders take risks

This is because managers are more focused on stability, while leaders are more focused on creating a great change. We can also say that managers are cautious, while leaders are curious.

6. Managers are timely; leaders are timeless

Managers are more concerned on efficiency. They are following deadlines and the achievement of several short-term goals. On the other hand, leaders are more concerned on integrity. They are following an ultimate goal. It’s like that managers have to win a series of battles, while leaders have to win the whole war.

7. Managers control; leaders serve

Managers take authority – they act as bosses. Leaders take duty – they act as servants. Management is based on power and sharpness, while leadership is based on humility and gentleness.

8. Managers transform a business; leaders transform people

Management is more concerned on the success of a business. On the other hand, leadership is more concerned on the success of the people inside and out of the business.

9. Managers have subordinates; leaders have peers

Management ensures that every person in the organization is well-placed according to his position and authority. Leadership ensures that every person enjoys equal treatment regardless of his position or authority.

10. Managers administer people; leaders empower them

Managers oversee their subordinates to see to it that they are doing their jobs the way they want them to be done or according to the organizational blueprint. Leaders develop their followers personally, trust them, and let them work independently.

11. Managers hire and fire employees; leaders welcome and keep friends

Management is more about keeping the business alive. On the other hand, leadership is more about keeping the relationships alive.

12. Managers do what is right; leaders do the right thing

Managers do the things that are generally acceptable or status quo. Leaders do things based on his belief or convictions and they may challenge or break what is generally acceptable.

13. Managers fulfill expectations; leaders make a surprise

Managers give due punishment, while leaders can forgive and forget. Moreover, managers give due credit or rewards to their subordinates, while leaders give grace (rewards beyond what people deserve) to their followers.

14. Managers focus on measurable things; leaders focus on immeasurable things

Managers are transactional and economical. On the other hand, leaders are spiritual or immaterial.

15. Managers are specific; leaders are holistic

Managers are more detailed persons, while leaders are more inclined to the big picture.

16. Managers rely on intelligence; leaders rely on pure will

Management comes from the brain, probability, logic, and common sense. On the other hand, leadership comes from the heart, soul, possibility, hope, faith, and love.

17. Managers explain; leaders prove

Managers give more knowledge and choices. Leaders give more experiences and realizations.

18. Managers make a plan, leaders create a vision

Managers are strategic, tactical and technical. They show the direction and are more focused on creating steps and procedures. On the other hand, leaders are deeper, broader and more focused on the ultimate things. They show the destination and are more focused on objectives and goals.

19. Managers expect result; leaders expect growth

Management is more about getting things done. On the other hand, leadership is more about getting the people, who get things done, grow.

20. Managers can resign and retire; leaders consider their job as a lifetime mission

Management is a temporary job – its existence depends on the life of a business, organization or occupation. On the other hand, leadership is a permanent job – its existence depends on one’s life.

So… have you determined which are you? Are you a leader or a manager? Remember that managers could also possess the qualities of a true leader. Likewise, leaders could also have the skills of an efficient and effective manager.

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