Leaders Versus Managers: What’s the Difference?

interview clipboardAny successful organization requires strong leadership and management—two different skill sets, not one. They co-exist, leading the group towards achieving goals, but with different methods.

A leader inspires and motivates others to achieve greater potential.
A manager handles, maintains, and supervises the completion of tasks.
And we need both in order to spark a group and then maintain its power, ability, and achievement in the long run.

As legendary software pioneer Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper once said, “You manage things; you lead people.”

You might find all of the qualities in one person, but don’t expect it. While it’s not necessarily a right brain-left brain sort of distinction, there are unique characteristics that define the person who excels in either leading or managing.

The leader: Visionary and inspiring

  • Positive: A glass-half-full mentality is required, because a true leader knows anything is possible, if you believe and can erase the negative thoughts that just hold you back.
  • Charismatic: People are attracted to the individual who is charming, relaxed, and easy to talk to. If people don’t like you, they won’t follow you. Without followers, you’re not a leader.
  • Enthusiastic: Communicates with energy—but not baseless cheerleading.
  • Creative: Sees potential in everything and can turn a bad situation around with creative thinking.
  • Open-minded: Welcomes new ideas, no matter where they come from.
  • Self-confident: Not cocky or arrogant, but confident in his or her own ability, so this person doesn’t feel threatened by others.
  • Self-aware: Keenly aware of his or her own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Inspiring: Sees potential in others and inspires them to achieve.
  • Perceptive: Awareness isn’t just restricted to being self-aware, but also detecting the highs and lows in other people. Being able to successfully “read” other people gives the effective leader the advantage of using visual clues to trigger more effective responses—which then inspires others to follow.

The manager: Organized and responsive

  • Knowledgeable: Knowing the systems, processes, and technology inside and out is essential so that the task master understands what’s involved in getting things done right.
  • Structured: Organized and systematic in everything. A good manager creates processes that make sense to the group, and can be replicated, scaled, or executed even without the manager’s supervision.
  • Dedicated: Forget the clock-watchers. Management requires commitment to seeing the task completed, no matter what it takes.
  • Versatile: Needs to handle a variety of assignments, manage different personalities, and sometimes step in on a hands-on basis.
  • Focused: A goal is not a wish. An effective manager stays the course with discipline and tunes out the distractions that get in the way.
  • Communicative: Today’s managers can’t bark orders with the “Because I said so” mentality. Sharing information with team members and making sure they’re on board with the objectives is key to effective management.
  • Accountable: Remember, there is no “I” in “T-E-A-M”. The manager is in charge and therefore responsible for outcomes, good or bad. However, in those “good” cases, an effective manager knows the share the credit with the team.
  • Resilient: A setback is just a challenge to a successful manager. They don’t allow themselves to get paralyzed when a problem arises, but bounce back with effective action.

When you’re hiring or cultivating talent, compare the individual’s qualities with these lists, and you’ll have a better idea of how they can benefit your business.

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