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Who’s the Boss? The Difference Between Leaders and Managers

Tuesday February 16th, 2016

Estimated time to read: 3 minutes

A very fine line exists in the differences between leaders and managers. Good managers are also leaders, but not all leaders are good managers.

Grace Murray Hopper simplifies the base difference: “You manage things, you lead people.”

Managers have employees.

Within any company, people show up when the workday begins and leave when it ends. A manager’s influence and control ends when employees leave the workplace. They have contracts to complete tasks and meet deadlines, but those contracts don’t typically extend beyond their shifts.

Leaders have followers.

The ideas and vision of leaders create people who aspire to follow them. The day to day becomes more than a job; it is a way of life. People follow the leader because his or her ideas give hope for the future and offer change. Followers are there because they believe in the vision.

Managers use power.

Management is structured and functions off of authority. There are rules and methods. Managers sit at the top of a hierarchy and use that power to ensure tasks are completed as requested. While managers are often the top of the hierarchy at their place of work, they are often at the bottom of another hierarchy.

Leaders use influence.

Leadership functions off of motivation and inspiration. Leaders are charismatic and use their influence to create teams. Leaders listen and counsel, teaching their followers. Through positive methods of teaching and teamwork, relationships become more focused on mentoring and growth than on the tasks at hand.

Managers are the head.

In the head-versus-heart debate, managers are the logical brain focused on work. They typically prefer tangible results and are task-oriented, plan, organize, and problem-solve. Time management and productivity run their days. Like a well-oiled machine, managers do not falter.

Leaders are the heart.

Led by their passionate hearts, leaders use their emotions and the emotions of their followers to further their visions by appealing to hopes and dreams. Leaders are transparent, often showcasing their flaws to be more relatable to their followers.

Managers seek results.

The end result is the goal for management team members. They want to see the product or service conveyed effectively to clients and consumers, resulting in higher numbers for the company. They focus on maximizing money acquired while minimizing cost.

Leaders seek growth.

Results are also important to leaders, but they spend more time focusing on the growth of the company than on the numbers. Impact is a key component of a leader’s plan.

Managers execute plans.

Managers will take employees and tasks from point A to point B in the quickest and most effective way possible. When a plan is written out, it is followed to a T and problems are solved as they arise.

Leaders dream up plans.

Leaders will spend time thinking of what could be and planning for big things. Like managers, they have the end result in mind, but they may be more imaginative and open to detours than management.

Managers count value.

As mentioned above, managers are focused on the numbers. They spend their time assessing the value of the company, specifically on time and money. Everything is a transaction: x amount of time is needed for these tasks and y amount of money will be spent.

Leaders create value.

When leaders are people-oriented, they focus on making ideas happen. Leading with honesty and integrity, leaders create trust and value within followers. The leader chooses to focus on the value of a result, instead of the value lost in the creation. Time can be fluid if it means more value in the product or service.

Managers react to change.

Preferring stability, managers are caught off guard by changes. Even a change as small as someone calling in sick can set the manager’s day off kilter, leaving him or her to react to the unusual situation. Managers may not be opposed to change but often prefer that things stay constant and regular.

Leaders create change.

Challenging the status quo, leaders create change within their company and the world. They are not afraid to take risks and go big. To leaders, change means growth, which is the ultimate goal. Nothing is out of reach for a leader who is chasing a vision.

Managers take credit.

When a task is completed, managers will take credit for the work that is done. While it may not be in a way that is negative to the employee, a manager knows that his or her management led to the results. Managers accept the credit in the forms of praise, bonuses, and commission.

Leaders take responsibility.

When recognition is given to a leader, he or she will often respond with, “I could not have done it without…” Leaders share the recognition and credit because they work in a team environment, not a hierarchy. Leaders know they are responsible for the amazing end result - as well as any negative results, and they often prefer to share any extra compensation, knowing that it will increase the morale of the team.

Management is important. Without it, companies would not run efficiently. Leaders are important for their abilities to focus on people. Productivity will thrive with proper management and employees will thrive with a leader. The best managers are great leaders, balancing the numbers and results with the people achieving those goals.