Difference between Leaders and Managers


In a recent post I talked about honesty being a constant in good managers I have had.

When I wrote this I was talking about adversity and what I wanted or didn’t want in a manager. This brings me to the subject of Manager V Leader.

The main difference I see is a manager uses authority and a leader used Influence. A good manager can also be a great leader, and your organization has many great leaders that are not managers.

Hierarchal structure leads to managers but not to leaders. As a parent I have often dropped my argument in frustration with my kids to the old adage “Because I say so..”. This never inspires people to do amazing things or to go beyond what is asked.

A real leader sets out Big goals and inspires people to achieve them. They have the ability to influence others without having authority over them. A Manager makes you feel they are important, a Leader makes you feel you are important. Great leaders are humble as they know it is not them, but the people, who are delivering on the vision.

Leaders focus on doing the right thing instead of just doing things right, often this involves risk, but they inspire people to take that risk alongside them and the rewards are better for the company as a whole. They focus on what is the right thing for the business instead of what is right for their team, group or career and in doing so they do what is truly right for their team and career.

Great leaders tend to be optimists not pessimist and with any vision many walls will stand in the way of achieving the goal. Great leaders tend to find solutions to these obstacles and always believe there is a way forward, even if they have not yet found it.

They have integrity and are not willing to get there by any means. Through this integrity they build trust in their followers as it is hard to follow someone you do not trust.

I do think a good leader is honest and gives ongoing feedback to the team, but coaches them around their blockers v fixing them, they remove barriers and politics that get in the way of success.

Leaders embrace diversity in every sense, as this brings differing views and better solutions. They avoid group think, a manger may want people to just do what they are told and diversity often gets in the way of this.

Dilbert manager

Courtesy of Dilbert

You know when you have a great leader as they show you a vision of the future and inspire you to want it and you being inspired go beyond what you even expected of yourself to deliver this as you believe in the vision. The inspired individual will work harder and will have more fun along the way as they believe in the vision, they will be more resilient.

This is why when we think of great leaders we are inspired by people like Martin Luther King JR. Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and many people who create the vision that you believe in and are willing to follow them through good and bad times in the name of a cause.

However it is not always a grand world changing goal that is required for great leaders, throughout my career I have seen many great leaders in low level positions that have delivered amazing results through their vision and drive. Many great leaders I have met are not in high positions in the company but often individuals that have no authority over anyone.


What are aspects of great leadership you have seen?

Do you have any examples of great leadership from non-managers that inspired you in your career?

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6 thoughts on “Difference between Leaders and Managers

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