Top 4 Factors That Separate Leaders from Managers

Top 4 Factors That Separate Leaders from Managers


Often, one of the most difficult boundaries to understand is the difference between leaders and managers. Both leaders and managers are necessary and valuable to an organisation, however it is challenging to be both. Interestingly, leaders don’t necessarily have to be in a management role, they can simply inspire people from their role. The two can co-exist, but there are some key differences – see below to learn of our top four.

1. Managers communicate – Leaders persuade

Good leaders attract loyal followers, built trust and as a result they are able to persuade their people to behave in certain ways. When something needs to be done, a manager will communicate that message and use their authority to create action. Leaders on the other hand communicate differently and use their trustworthy relationships to motivate people. While both are effective, motivating people to act creates a more positive working environment in comparison to those who feel forced to act.

2. Managers have good ideas – Leaders implement them

At any forward-thinking organisation, the role of leaders and managers will be to create new ideas and innovate. Where the difference occurs between the two is in the implementation phase – leaders tend to move forward and lead the way, whereas managers often struggle to do so. Leaders are constantly forward thinking, and implementing new strategies for continuous success. On the other hand, managers maintain what has already been established, and ensure the bottom line is not compromised – often leading to a lack of innovative progression.

3. Managers direct groups – Leaders create teams

While both leaders and managers may be allocated a team of people, it is how they interact with them that differentiates the two. As a leader, you recognise that your greatest asset is your people, and hire people with greater technical skills than you. As Lee Iacocca puts it, “I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way”. While similar in meaning, ‘team’ and ‘group’ have completely different dynamics in the workplace. Leaders foster a team environment which works together to achieve goals, whereas managers tend to direct groups who work autonomously for the majority of the time.

4. Managers rely on control – Leaders inspire action

Gene Wade, Founder and CEO of UniversityNow once said “Leadership is not what you do – it’s what others do in response to you. If no one shows up at your march, then you’re not really a leader”. In a management role, the manager relies on his or her power to ensure that employees act. Leaders on the other hand inspire action through trust, and through building relationships. Leaders motivate people to work harder, stay loyal and meet goals, and they act in this way out of choice.

What do you think?

Can you think of any other factors which separate leaders and managers from each other? I’d love to hear from readers, and for you to define which of the two you believe you are based on the above four points. Comment your views below and join the AIB conversation. 

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: American Express and Chalre

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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