Leader vs Manager: How to direct a business excellently

Becky Leighton

Posted: July 29, 2019

Table of Contents

leadership vs management

A leader vs manager: Are they the same? What is the better way to head up a business? In this, we explore.

Although they share many traits, leaders and managers are not identical in practice. There are clear differences which set the two roles apart from one another. Learning to manage might be important, but learning to lead is crucial.

What is the difference leader vs a manager?

There are several major variances between leading and managing in business; most of which stem from one fundamental difference:

-A manager oversees the team that works.
-A leader heads up and looks after the individuals in the team.

From here, the differences in characteristics and practical ways of running the company or supervising the individuals in a team appear:


Leaders look to inspire while managers focus on implementation

A No. 2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.” – Joyce Meyer

When a team has an effective leader in place, you’ll often see that the individuals are inspired to do their work to the best of their ability. This is because the leader knows how important it is to help the team see that what they do is part of a bigger picture and that every task is important to achieve that. 

If a manager is in place and there is an absence of leadership skills, you will often see a task force completing the work, but the drive to do it well is generally lacking. The manager might desire the success of the company, but they are missing the ability to rally the team to desire it too.

Leader vs Manager: Innovation vs Traditional

Innovation is the new competitive advantage.” – Julia Sweet

While something in business might work well, it might not offer the best possible system or solution. A leader takes pride in finding the best, most effective method of solving a problem. This often results in change – which can be considered risky – but can drive performance and efficiency. Managers often consider the “if it isn’t broken, it doesn’t need fixing” axiom and look for ways to keep things the same, making minor improvements on the systems in place. While a manager sees disruption as dangerous, a leader sees it as crucial.

Leaders are risk-taking while managers want to control risk

“Failure is success in progress.” – Albert Einstein

In the same way that leaders see innovation as a way to move forward, they see risks as a potential for major success. Leaders also understand that something failing is not an end-game, but rather an important part of learning towards success. 

Managers, on the other hand, look to control risks and keep them to a minimum. 

Leaders want their people to succeed while managers want to fulfil their objectives 

The happiness of an individual in a team is hugely important to a leader. A good leader understands that individual success will equate to a team success because successful individuals are inspired, and inspired individuals want to succeed in all areas of life. A leader also knows that success can mean anything from a personal, professional, and relational level and they will try to put things in place to help the individual meet goals.

A manager might understand how important success is but won’t put anything in place to help individuals achieve it. Instead, the focus is put on output and driving work objectives to completion.

To maximise both business and relational requirements in a company, finding a person who can satisfy both leadership and management needs is key. An individual or team who can supervise staff members, giving guidance while keeping their eye on the prize. Finding an excellent combination of a business manager who can lead a team well can be a game-changer in business within no time.

One of the best ways to hone business leader skills is to practice consistently; displaying leadership characteristics in each interaction. Taking a short course at the same time can also snowball results.

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