Differences between a Manager and a Leader

There is a long term debate as to whether leaders and managers can be considered one in the same. While the two positions are undoubtedly and intimately involved, each has a separate role in a company’s success. Namely, it is the role of the manager to oversee company goals and expectations, while it is the leader’s role to serve in a liaison capacity between the manager and lower level employees of the company. This is not to suggest that a leader is middle management.

On the contrary, they act as executors of company objectives to accomplish long term goals. Inevitably, a company would not be able to effectively operate without the contributions of both parties because they are two people working together to accomplish the same objective.

The roles are looking out for and taking care of each other. A manager’s actions are frequently dictated by the specificity of tasks whereas a leader’s actions are frequently dictated by humanism and interpersonal relationships to build a followership. This relationship compounds the need for mutual respect between the parties as well as acknowledging the roles of each in a company’s success. To clearly depict the intimate relationship between the two, one must first begin by delineation.

Defining Management and Leadership

It is most logical to begin the analysis by considering what makes a manager a manager. By definition, a manager is someone that multi-tasks and ensures that objectives are completed. These objectives are consistent between corrective and progressive company implementations, but in no way implies that there is substantiation to performing or being involved in the tasks. In this way, a manager can be viewed as a second tier liaison between company owners and first line personnel.

Frequently, a manager will convey company objectives via email or department meeting. The manager is then charged with the responsibility of tracking milestone objectives by lower level employee performance. Hence, lower level direction is received from managers.

The ending question to this is, “How are the tasks and goals of the company achieved and monitored?” To answer this question, we must turn to the role of the leader within an organization.

We first begin by understanding the role of a leader and what their purpose is. A leader is someone who inspires and motivates peers to accomplish things for the betterment of everyone (company and self). The leader rarely has an authoritative position because that lends to them being viewed as different, separate, or not able to comprehend the struggles of the very employees that they intend to inspire.

In action, a leader is a person that can listen to the tasks of management and then motivate coworkers to work toward accomplishing management’s tasks. In this regard, the leader is the person that engages employees in continuing moving toward long-term company goals.

One of the ways that leaders accomplish this, and that is in stark contrast to managers, is that leaders lead by example. What this means is that a primary method of inspiring employees to work toward company goals is by working alongside low level employees. Leading by example is most easily completed when the leader is willing to perform the same tasks that they expect of others.

The leader is the person that is willing to be beside you and look over with a smile on their face knowing that you are each other’s comrades in whatever the task of completion is. Evaluation of this aspect directly lends to the mentality of the manager versus the leader.

The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves

– Ray Kroc

Their Roles in organisations

To a certain degree, a leader must exercise more management skills than a manager themselves. This is said because leaders deal with and inspire people- one of the most complicated aspects of the organization that there is. A leader is the person that knows what needs to be accomplished, looks around at their coworkers, and already knows how people will respond before ever knowing the task. He/she can be thought of as a psychic in this regard. Nevertheless, the leader also knows how to make things happen.

Managers, on the contrary, frequently manage tasks and things that are black and white or that involve a negligible number of variables. One may think of the corporate scenario as a family who needs to do chores.

The leader is the eldest child. The child knows everything that must be completed, but also knows which siblings are great at particular chores, which hate which chores, and so forth. In an effort to play outside as quickly as possible, the leader child will begin delegating rooms by who can do it the best and fastest.

A manager is like the parent that lists the chores to clean the house and checks off one room at a time. The parent or manager does not care who does which chore, or how it is done. The project concern extends as far as adequate completion.

It goes without saying that the leader’s and manager’s aspects of management are equally important to every company, but the approach to accomplish each is significantly different. A manager must exercise decision making on the best approach to accomplish tasks. They must consider questions such as, “What is the cause of the task?”, “What is the complexity level of the task?”, and finally, “How can task completion be measured?” The answers to these questions are associated with risk that extends to whether or not they will be accomplished. After the tasks and measurable outcomes have been established, it is then time for the leader to intervene with his or her role.

The leader has a different set of questions to answer. “What is the current feelings or morale of company employees?” “How do I most effectively motivate them to work toward company goals?” “What extenuating circumstances currently exist within the organization, that I may need to account for?” The third question is the most significant of the three. A leader rarely has the “privilege” of telling employees that something needs to be accomplished and everyone does it.

Rather, a leader must be charismatic and take a humanistic approach that personalizes the company objectives and goals to the employee. In this regard, the method taken to motivate employees while accomplishing company goals is not black and white.

In fact, leaders frequently find themselves in positions of thinking outside of the box to get the desired results. Negotiations are sometimes required in leadership positions. These negotiations include a trade-off of privileges, or the guarantee to rotate responsibilities in future tasks. Consequently, leaders spend significant time hoping that the approach selected yields the desired outcome of management measurability. Unfortunately, to know for sure will depend on the final output of the employee body.

The primary reason that final output is contingent with leaders and not managers is because of the allocation of control and responsibilities. As a rule of thumb, leaders do not micromanage or attempt to control how personnel accomplish their tasks. Leaders tend to let go of control and trust in personnel that managers do not.

Furthermore, leaders are able to designate responsibilities based on employee competencies. In general, leaders give employees the opportunity to prove their abilities. In doing so, leaders self-elect to designate a portion of a task without controlling how it is accomplished (as long as it is done so within company directives).

A manager however, is limited in the ability of doing this. For example, when a manager is given a set of tasks to be delegated, he/she cannot delegate the task to someone else for overview. The manager is able to designate department areas responsible for ensuring a task is completed, but the manager is not able to delegate the responsibility of the task being completed. It is in this way that the manager must maintain complete control of task status at all times. Hence, a manager’s responsibilities and control may be viewed as nontransferable while a leader’s unwritten responsibilities can be viewed as transferrable.

In review, It is a manager’s responsibility to ensure that tasks toward company progression is accomplished, and a leader’s responsibility to ensure that methods are in place to accomplish the tasks. Both positions accomplish their roles in distinctly different ways.

Leadership is action, not position

– Donald H. McGannon

How do they accomplish their tasks?

You may think of the two as a checklist monitor for a manager and the motivational or persuasive speaker as the leader. For a manager, they must monitor performance and know who their leaders are. The primary method of accomplishing the latter is by observing the relationship between employees to know who is the best convincer amongst employees. In contrast, the leader accomplishes their tasks by observation and gaining respect of employees. A critical part of the latter is done by removing personal bias from situations.

A leader must be believed in and followed by others. He or she becomes a cheerleader by virtue of the position. A critical means of doing this is understanding the population that the leader is working with, as well as setting the example that everyone is equal and that they are to follow. These underlying principles set the foundation of leader-follower relationships, allow followers to believe that their leader accurately represents them, and it is only when these core values are present that true leadership can result.  

Simply stated, being a manager consists of keeping things on track. In a management capacity, one is responsible for the completion of tasks that are delegated down by superiors. The manager’s tasks change by the day and current state of the company.

A leader is strikingly different in that they are responsible for motivating and creating a sense of wholeness within an organization. For the leader, the emphasis is placed on long term goals of an organization, the big picture of where the company is going.

Thus, the manager can viewed as the incremental microstate coordinator whereas the leader is the microstate coordinator. The manager serves a very specific role within the organization, whereas a leader can be found at any level of an organization. Lower level leaders have been the focus of this paper, but it has not been excluded that leaders can exist at any level of organization.

To identify a leader versus manager, one must first identify the actions, decisions, and role of the person in their position. Discriminating questions to be asked include, “Is the person task or goal oriented?”, “What kind of relationship does the person have with coworkers?”, and “Does the person focus on short or long term objectives?” If the person is task oriented, presumed to have limited coworker relationships, and focuses on one objective at a time to get to the end goal, they are likely a manager. If the person is goal oriented, has a notable amount of coworker relationships, and thinks long term, they are likely to be a leader.

A leader envisions how every step contributes to the long-term success of a company without the need to know the individual steps to get there. The leader associated with and understands co-workers to know how to most effectively contribute to the company’s long term vision. As you look around organizations of today, you will find that the world is realizing the powerful impacts of leadership and the need for managers are coming to an end.

Impacts of Management Vs. Leadership

The strength of the employee-leader and employee-manager relationships throughout a company dictates its success by positive correlation, and frequently begins at the bottom while climbing to the top. For this reason, it becomes more appropriate to begin with the relationship effect of the leader.

It has previously been noted that a leader must have respect from their followers, but respect is not limited to this capacity. Specifically, followers must have a sense of mutual respect from their leaders. This respect must be true and consistent.

The cause of this is because a company may be viewed like a house with the low level employees the same as the foundation. The leader is synonymous to the outer boards which form the foundation. When the leader is first established, the infrastructure may be seen as strong, but the ongoing strength is only as structured as the integrity of the frame. If a leader is to maintain structural support, no compromise of lateral respect must be exhibited. This is synchronous to a weak spot in the company that will manifest with time and potentially cause the collapse of the company just as a weak spot in the foundation will cause a house to collapse.

Likewise, the leader must serve as a role model in behavioral relationships. They must portray an essence that makes it acceptable to not agree with management decisions, but maintain respect for each person’s role in the company and how each contributes to the company’s progress.

Additionally, the leader must use their earned respect to show employees how each decision and action directly contributes to their personal life and benefit. This sense of pride within the lower levels of a company can then be transferred directly to higher level tiers, such as management.

It is undebated that when management’s team is performing well, that they are also excelling in their position. It is not enough for management to give a pat on the back for lower level efforts.

Management also falls within the realm of mutual respect required domain of a leader. Furthermore, it must be evident that management’s interest in its leaders and their followers is genuine. This aspect can be demonstrated in a variety of ways. One significant way is communication. Although it is management’s primary responsibility to monitor task accomplishment, they must also maintain a minimum level of communication with those below them.

Employees at all levels must respect the next tier of management in addition to whose leadership they choose to follow. This is one of the few respects that the roles of management and leadership are indivisible. A small, yet effective, means of doing this is expressing gratitude for efforts made and tasks accomplished.

Thus, while the manager does not have the same communication frequencies or relationships as the leader, acknowledging personal success that is directly related to the efforts of others is an unwritten responsibility of all managers. It is with this type of consideration that managers can reinforce future tasks, and promote employees to further follow their direction that leaders find ways to implement.

Despite the vertical significance of these concepts, the relationships are not limited to one direction in the effectiveness of a company. Many times, a unit’s (or department’s) success is noticed by lateral departments. The statement that good things are just as contagious as bad holds true within an organization. The question then becomes how one chain of command can become viral within an organization? The answer is quite simple, and that morale and attitude are contagious.

Effective teamwork and collaboration receive recognition beyond lower level management. This dissemination of information invokes a level of curiosity with other managers and leaders within a company. Coworkers will soon look to the techniques and approaches used, and possibly include other departments in interdepartmental trainings.

With continuation, one can easily visualize how effective leadership and management in one area of a company can spread. Upon spreading, the company will continue to grow stronger and more progressive. Furthermore, interdepartmental leaders and managers are able to share effective approaches and learn from each other. This promotes an overall increase in employee performance.

Nevertheless, the division yet relation of the roles must remain separate. In best case scenarios, companies may use the differences between the two roles to emphasize management assuming more roles of a leader and a leader assuming more roles of a manager.

Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.