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Defining the Differences Between a Leader and a Manager

by Jul 13, 2018Language and Culture

Sean Hopwood
MBA President and Founder at Day Translations, Inc.

Every organization has managers that head each department. Each manager has a set of management skills that differentiates their style, making them a leader or a manager.

The Business Dictionary defines a manager as a person who takes charge of a specific department or particular tasks within a company. The individual usually has a team of people reporting to him. A leader, on the other hand, is an individual who holds a superior or dominant position within a certain field. He or she has the ability to exercise a level of influence or control over other people.

The success of a business depends on how it is managed or led by the persons of higher position than staff members. They are the company executives who belong to the middle or top management of the company.

Still, the future of the company rests on the smooth coordination among departments, meaning, it is not dependent on one or two persons only, but on the synchronized execution of interdependent functions to achieve the company’s short-term and long-term goals.

People’s character traits differ from one another. It is evident in the way they speak and act, and make decisions. The same can be said for the way executives manage and lead. There are several differences between effective management and effective leadership and effective leaders as well as effective managers.

Differences between effective leaders and effective managers

There are several points of reference when you discuss the differences in the functions of efficient leaders and managers.

  1. Style

You can consider someone an effective leader when the person provides clear directions for people to follow. They are able to clearly communicate their vision by the way they present, write or speak. An effective leader is not one to make rush decisions. Often the decision the leader arrives at is a product of careful and accurate assessment of a situation before taking action, in order to achieve a good result.

Effective leaders inspire and motivate people under them into taking action. They are enablers of transformations and transitions.

On the other hand, the actions of effective managers are more limited. They direct and control people under them through the organization’s set of procedures and policies. They are more concentrated on ensuring the smooth flow of day-to-day operations of an organization or company.

  1. Vision

Defining their vision for the company and motivating subordinates to follow the vision are marks of effective leaders. They show excellent skills in making decisions. They are assertive and display empathy and integrity in leading others.

The effective manager executes the leader’s vision once the subordinates agree to accept the future plan. It is the duty of the manager to find the resources to implement the vision and complete the tasks to realize it. The manager has to select the individuals who will carry on the tasks based on their capability, knowledge and skills.

  1. Change

Market conditions are not fixed. Changes occur constantly, which can have different effects on businesses. In case of changes in the market the effective leader sees the need to adjust the current business practices by championing new strategies and taking risks. Guiding the company in another direction to weather the changes makes it possible for the organization to utilize the opportunities and strengths as well as eliminate or alleviate threats and risks.

Effective managers provide support by maintaining the company’s operations instead of changing them. They see to it that the organization’s operations remain consistent once the new directions are given.

  1. Participation

Sometimes, a leader can be autocratic and act by making decisions on his or her own. The style is effective when there is a crisis, such as man-made or natural disaster. In a situation like this, you can appreciate the action of a decisive leader who is able to take charge and manage the situation. However, generally, employees do not take kindly to autocratic leaders because they often undermine the employees’ value.

An effective manager normally calls on his or her subordinates to perform the tasks. The manager requests the subordinates for input on how to accomplish the assigned tasks and conversely help improve employee retention, morale and satisfaction.

  1. Planning

When it comes to planning, the leader sets the organization’s goals. The person establishes the long-term strategy of the company. He or she is the one who supports the activities of the departments and reviews the performance of managers. The leader decides on the budget allocation that enables the managers to hire employees and give them compensation.

On the other hand, the effective manager is assigned the task of achieving the desired company goals by planning, executing, monitoring and closing related projects. The manager executes the tactical efforts in order for quality services and products to reach the market according to schedule and budget.

Leaders and managers have different functions within the organization. Ideally, their combined actions lead to the company’s success and longevity. Companies operate differently and they have their own organizational structure. Therefore, the functions of leaders and managers may vary from organization to organization. The company executives must understand the different roles leaders and managers play within the company.

Utilizing the skills of leaders and managers

It is important for business executives to understand that an employee can be promoted to be a manager but the chances of the person turning into a leader cannot be determined. For one thing, leaders execute their role based on their inherent and acquired characteristics while managers use their skills (conceptual, human and technical) to perform their role.

It can be difficult to be both a leader and a manager as the roles are too different between the two. Here’s why:

  1. The leaders develop the vision while the managers develop the goals to realize the vision.
  2. Leaders introduce changes and innovations. Managers follow the things that work. They may refine existing processes, structures and systems for the better.
  3. Leaders are comfortable in their uniqueness and think of ways to make themselves stand out. Managers are more likely to copy the behaviors and competencies of others and base their style on them instead of developing their own.
  4. While leaders are willing to take risks and take failures in stride, managers are always trying to control or prevent risks.
  5. Managers think about short-term goals and often expect rewards for their achievements. Leaders on the other hand are always thinking about long-term goals and are motivated to reach distant objectives, without thinking of rewards or accolades.
  6. Leaders want to learn all the time and their curiosity pushes them to seek information and people to expand their knowledge. Managers are happy to depend on proven and existing skills and behaviors.
  7. While leaders are people-centric and are always building relationships, managers concentrate on building processes and systems. Leaders understand the competencies of the people they work with and allow them to discover their potential. Managers assign tasks to the people under them and give them directions to accomplish their tasks.
  8. Leaders develop a following and their followers help them remain visible and achieve what they set out to do. The people under a manager follow his directions and often work to please the manager.

A company with a full complement of staff can have leaders and managers. A small business owner may have to do both functions if there are only a few people under him or her. But in some cases, the owner may have to choose between being a leader or a manager, based on the characteristics and skill set outlined here.

How about you? Are you an effective leader or an effective manager? Share your thoughts with us.

Image Copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo

Sean Hopwood
MBA President and Founder at Day Translations, Inc.

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