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Leaders vs Managers: Are Managers and Leaders the Same?

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

Leader and manager are two words that are often used interchangeably. In this post, I will look at what makes them different and what they have in common.

So, are Managers and Leaders the Same? The difference between leaders and managers is that leaders earn their followers whereas managers are given subordinates. "Manager" is a formal title often given to a person in a formalized position of authority

The most effective managers are those that are able to inspire their team, therefore taking on a leadership role. Not all leaders need to have the title of manager, as a leader is someone that has a vision and is able to have others join them on their path towards this end result. Below I will look at Leadership vs Management characteristics.

Characteristics of Leaders


Leaders possess traits that draw people towards them. These include having integrity, being honest and trustworthy, strong communication skills, creativity and willingness to take risks.

Inspires Vision

The main goal of a leader is to influence others by inspiring vision and having others willing to work towards that vision together. They are able to challenge and motivate individuals while creating a positive environment through encouragement, feedback, openly giving credit,

Use Perceived Negatives for Good

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas A. Edison

Great leaders look at conflict and failure as opportunities. By looking at conflict as an opportunity for discussion and learning they are able to leverage people’s passion and differences into a more dynamic way of achieving success. They take the blame for their mistakes and view them as opportunities for personal and project growth. Leaders have a strong sense of responsibility to themselves and others, so staying committed to the vision helps them navigate when bumps occur or mountains need to be climbed. By staying flexible and open they are able to navigate perceived negative situations and turn them into wins and growth opportunities.

Characteristics of Managers


Strong managers have the ability to create clear and detailed plans, coordinate a diverse group of people/processes, and address issues with strategic thinking and problem-solving. Managers are focused on their people ensuring that they are able to achieve the goals that are set out for them while feeling valued and heard. Managers are often in the role of mentoring subordinates so the ability to effectively communicate through individualized feedback is a strong asset.

Executes Vision

“Ideas don’t make you rich. The correct execution of ideas does.” - Felix Dennis

Effective managers are able to direct people by telling them their roles and responsibilities as they see it fitting into the vision for their area. They must manage a variety of personalities and handle interpersonal conflicts as they arise in order to achieve the required goal.

Problem Focused

By having a strong ability to buy into a vision and create a roadmap for success managers are able to minimize risk and achieve results as directed by their superiors. They utilize process management to avoid conflicts, focusing on tasks, goals, and milestones. When these are not achieved individuals are often held accountable or blamed.

As a result of their position managers are often reactive as goals and expectations change or problems arise. They are also given credit for the results of their team.

What Skills do Both Possess?


Both leaders and managers need the ability to communicate clearly and respectfully with those around them. Having strong communication abilities allows both to achieve better and longer-lasting results which is ultimately the goal of each.


Without a group of people that are working towards a common goal, there is no need for either a leader or a manager. By having a group of people that have bought into the process, vision, or purpose that needs to be achieved only then can they be successful. Keeping everyone positive, forward-focused, and driven to success is mutually beneficial.


One person cannot do everything. By recognizing what each person is able to take on, including the leader or manager, the team is able to more effectively achieve the task. Delegation of tasks based on skills and enthusiasm is a key component to the success of the group. Recognizing when a skill is better left to someone else is vital to prevent burnout and create a sense of purpose and pride amongst other team members.

Disadvantages of Leaders VS Managers

Disadvantages of Leaders

"Leader" is a title that is earned by the ability to create a following of others. If the person views themselves as a leader but does not have people that want to follow them, a leader they are not. Being a leader can have far more pressure than being a manager. By requiring that people willingly follow based upon their perception of an individual it is far easier for a leader to lose their power or authority and become a manager.

While working within a corporate setting if the vision aspired to by the leader does not align with the vision set out by the company there could be ramifications. Leaders have the power to cause change, and not all organizations will be interested in the changes inspired by the vision. When a vision aligns with the company’s goals and ideals it can be a powerful thing, when they divert, it can become disastrous for either party.

Disadvantages of Managers

Once appointed it is assumed that the manager has the skills required to effectively do their job, and sometimes the job of others. When they fall short of these expectations and assumptions it can cause resentment or disrespect from their subordinates. Managers are also held accountable for what their team does. Their position is based upon the ability and effectiveness of their team to do their jobs in order to meet the expectations of those in positions of power above them.

Managers are required to follow the vision of others, which is why they were appointed, to follow through on someone else’s vision. If this is not done to the satisfaction of their superior it is often the manager who is held responsible. The manager will be in charge of tasks such as hiring, firing, reprimanding, evaluating, and sometimes training their team in order to achieve a greater goal.

How to Become a Great Leader in Management

Once in management being able to empower those around you is one of the most powerful tools a manager can possess. By holding themselves accountable to both their team, and their superiors’ managers are able to keep a foot in both arenas ensuring that people do not get lost within the larger structure of an organization.

By engaging with those on their team and learning about people’s passions, interests, and motivations a great leader will be able to see the opportunity to engage each person and leverage each of them to help achieve their goals and visions.

As mentioned above, managers have the ability to become mentors to their staff. By creating opportunities for growth and leadership opportunities within their team each manager’s perceived strength and position as a leader will increase.

The better a manager or leader is able to communicate the stronger they will become. Continuing to learn new ways of communicating and motivating co-workers and others will positively affect everyone’s ability to contribute. This works in all directions, great leaders are able to inspire people above them, around them and below them. Great leaders and managers have the ability to cause a ripple effect both positively and negatively; it is each person’s choice which effect they choose to have.

“The Greatest leader is not necessarily one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets people to do the greatest things” Ronald Reagan
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