managers and leaders

5 Enormous Differences Between Managers and Leaders

Five enormous differences between managers and leaders

Are managers and leaders different entities? While those lower down the promotional ladder might not think so, most experts will tell you there are certainly big differences and understanding these is vital if you want to run a successful company.

Managers and leaders may share characteristics but there are five major difference that set them apart, most importantly in the way they see the world around them and how they react to it.

  1. Direction and Travel

Leaders set the direction. They say: I have a great idea and this is where we want to go. They’re the innovators and developers who develop the strategy to move a company from A to B. Their job is also to sell that direction of travel to the rest of the company and convince everyone to come along.

Managers are the ones who facilitate the leader’s vision. They plan the steps and organise the employees to ensure they are all pulling in the same direction. In car terms, the leader is the driver, the manager the steering wheel and the employees the engine.

  1. Risk Taking

Leaders are the ones that take the risk though you may think it’s shared by the whole company. If a CEO picks the wrong path to travel down they will lose their job. The manager is responsible for minimising those risks – not stopping progress but ensuring that the company gets to its goal as economically and safely as possible. While all this is going on, managers will be instructing people to get on with specific tasks while leaders often stand on the side-lines encouraging the push forward.

  1. What Lies Beyond

Managers generally have their eyes fixed on the bottom line. Leaders will have theirs fixed firmly on the horizon. They’re depending on the managers to get them further along so the next plans can be implemented. While your leader will be charting all that new growth and movement, the manager will be hoping to meet current expectations and make sure their planning doesn’t go off the rails.

  1. Managers React, Leaders Challenge

Managers are concerned with how things are at any particular moment and implementing plans. They have to anticipate problems and put in measures to keep things on track. Leaders are generally looking to challenge the immediate status quo – they’re not worrying about how it’s working at the moment but how it can work if something different is done. This might be construed as a glass half full mentality but for many businesses it works well. Managers tend to see a problem that has to be solved while leaders recognise the opportunity ahead.

  1. People

The major difference between leaders and managers is often the people under them. Managers, the good ones at least, are concerned with helping their teams to work effectively and productively together and keeping the best personnel in place. Leaders are more interested in the end results and whether a particular goal has been achieved or not rather than the personnel involved.

Can leadership and management coexist?

The truth is that organisations and businesses need leadership and management in equal measure. The above differences might all seem opposite sides of the same coin and that wouldn’t be too far from the truth.

It’s not a competition, however. The good businesses have an inherent synergy between leadership and management based on respect for each other and a close understanding of what each brings to the table. Leaders might make good managers and vice versa and the difference between the two can often become blurred, particularly in smaller companies, but they also have to comprehend their total reliance on each other.


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