The Difference Between Manager and Leader

leader and manager

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” 

This quote, written by Stephen Covey, sets a vision for managers and leaders in their respective roles. Despite often being used interchangeably, managers and leaders have different functions and priorities within an organization. Both require a unique set of talents, characteristics, and skills; however, these will occasionally overlap in the business field. They are in fact different and unique, but to be effective in your role as a leader or manager using skillsets from both will guarantee success.

To understand this overlap, let’s first identify what is unique about each role.

Leaders are considered individuals who create positive change, including creating a vision that guides the change. In other words, these individuals use this vision as a strategy. Typically, this vision focuses on the most important aspects of the business, such as direction, development, and innovation. 

Conversely, managers are the individuals who efficiently accomplish the visions set out by those in leadership. Managers get people together to utilize all of their available resources effectively. For a manager, it’s all about the process of how and when to get things done. This means they are keen to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their team and learn to integrate them in a coordinated plan of attack. Managers rarely take chances, and they mostly don’t stray away from guidelines or processes. 


Leaders = Vision / Managers = Process
As we mentioned above, leaders are individuals that drive change. Because they are able to set forward a vision for a goal they want to achieve, they are able to effectively empower people to follow. Whether it’s a change of pace or a change of mindset, leaders are always concerned with moving their team forward productively and even emotionally at times. 

Leaders are more intent on thinking ahead and seizing every opportunity that comes their way, looking to pave a way forward to the accomplishment of set goals.  This often means that a little chaos or lack of structure is more commonly found under their charge. They are also willing to delay closure in order to understand issues more fully.  

Managers normally are not vision seekers, in fact, they embrace process above all else. Managers tend to seek stability, control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly—sometimes before they fully understand the problem’s significance. Managing a process means understanding objectives, creating milestones, and determining a course of action that is maintainable and effective.  

Managers are the key to keeping their teams motivated, energized, and excited about performing their assigned tasks. 

We must remember that BOTH management and leadership are needed to have top functioning organization. One is not better, and most definitely not more important, than the other. Managers and leaders, despite their differences and workflow, are both integral in organizational operations. 

The best managers can have lots of leadership acumen. And great leaders need to have management skills as well.  Take some time, look back through the characteristics and think about which one of these you identify with most.

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