The Difference Between Managers and Leaders

Article By Donna Flag for Psychology Today

Debate has long surrounded the topic of whether managers differ from leaders and vice versa, and if so, how. Some companies try to train employees to be both, while some consider them distinctly different. However, in reality, the answer remains elusive because managers and leaders are both the same and different.

Managing requires getting work done. It requires the management of people and day-to-day organization of logistics, communication, workflow and tasks. It is making sure that things run smoothly in the same way that moving parts of a machine work together to create a functional whole.

Leading, on the other hand, is about inspiration, having a mission, envisioning a future and being able to communicate it in a way that motivates other people to believe in a purpose – and participate in it. Implicitly, workplace leaders have followers. Managers technically, don’t. Not necessarily.

But it’s not really a question of whether a manager leads or a leader manages. More, it comes down to a matter of execution. In other words, a manager who can’t, or doesn’t, lead is probably not a very good one. And likewise, a leader who can’t manage is also probably not all that effective.

This does not have to be the case, however. For anyone in the workplace who wants to succeed at both managing and leading, he/she just needs to look at where they overlap, noting that the most important thing to focus on is the impact you have on other people. In the end, it is that which separates the bad from the good, and the good from the great.

So, let’s break it down:

The number one thing a good manager and leader share is the ability to communicate. And while some are naturally better at it than others, it is a skill set like any other that develops with practice. Workplace communication is unique, and therefore, should be approached like a language that requires work and repetition to achieve fluency.

Next, you need to show respect to other people and their feelings, regardless of their level in the organization. This is a very simple premise: Respect begets respect. If you make what’s important to other people important to you, they will respond in kind. As both a manager and leader you need people to either do the work or carry out your vision, or both. How they feel emotionally and psychologically toward you, and by extension the organization, is what ultimately determines the quality of that work. If they feel excluded, unfairly treated or abused, their hearts will not be in it, and the work will be mediocre at best, and horrific at worst.

Finally, leaders and managers must “walk the walk.” The best way to shape behavior is to model it. If you say one thing and do another, you will lose trust and credibility, and with it will go your ability to be effective, influence others and move people, teams and organizations forward.

So while it’s true, each role can be clearly defined and delineated by function, succeeding as one or the other depends on sharing the attributes of both. The net-net? We need managers who inspire folks to follow and leaders who can hold the place together and make it hum. And so we end up right back from where we started. They are different, but not really.

Read the original article on the Psychology Today website.

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