What is the Difference between a Manager and a Leader?

What is the difference between a manager and a leader? Are there really differences between management and leadership? Managers and leaders are both vital in business and organizational success, whether big or small. They are both tasked to accomplish certain objectives. That is why it is very important that we know and understand their real functions and how we can effectively use both of them to achieve our organizational and entrepreneurial goals. At the end of this discussion, we will realize significant insights regarding the difference between a manager and a leader.


Definitions of leadership and management

To distinguish the two, we go to their definitions. Management is the “act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively”. On the other hand, leadership is the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. As we learn, both are designed for the accomplishment of a goal. The truth is… leadership is a vital part of management, and a vital part of management is leadership. In other words, they both rely on each other to exist and work optimally. Management is a body, while leadership is its heart. If leadership will not function, management will not function as well.


Top differences known between a manager and a leader

There have been several attempts to distinguish the two, and some of those top differences are the following.

1. Managers have subordinates, while leaders have followers
2. Managers are reactive, while leaders are proactive.
3. Managers are transactional, while leaders are transformational
4. Managers minimize risks, while leaders take the risks
5. Managers are concern on being right, while leaders are concern on what is right
6. Managers blame, while leaders take the blame
7. Managers take credits, while leaders give credits
8. Managers make rules, while leaders break the rules
9. Managers consider the short term, while leaders see the long-term
10. Managers are traditional, while leaders are innovative


Those don’t really differentiate a manager from a leader

Yes, the ten differences above don’t really distinguish a manager from a leader, and there have been many misconceptions with regard to that matter. Here are the reasons why.

1. Managers have subordinates, but these subordinates are also their followers. Likewise, leaders’ followers can also be their subordinates.
2. Good managers are proactive and not reactive. Bad leaders are reactive.
3. Both good managers and leaders are transformational. They can also be transactional.
4. Wise managers do not minimize risks; they only maximize rewards. Leaders do not always take the risks, especially when rewards are obscure.
5. Both managers and leaders are concerned on what is right. You cannot be right when you aren’t concern on what is right.
6. Responsible managers and leaders take the blame. Bad managers and leaders always blame others.
7. Benevolent managers and leaders give credits. Selfish managers and leaders take all the credits.
8. Both managers and leaders make rules. They also both break rules.
9. Wise managers and leaders consider the short-term, mid-term and long-term.
10. Both managers and leaders can be traditional and innovative.


The real difference between a manager and a leader

As we’ve discussed earlier, management is like a body, and leadership is its heart. A body without a heart cannot live. Likewise, a heart without a body where it will reside won’t also live. Management and leadership co-exist and are directly connected to each other. When leadership is bad, management also turns bad. On the other hand, when leadership is good, management also becomes good. Furthermore, when leadership innovates, management also innovates, and vice versa. In short, what leadership becomes is what also management will become. Just like when heart becomes healthy, the body also becomes healthy, and when the body becomes strong, the heart also strengthens. They always go around, just like the veins that connect and the blood that flow to each other.

The only real differences they have are their names, size of coverage and the fact that leadership is an integral part of management, and that an integral part of management is leadership. Therefore, instead of breaking a leader (leadership) and a manager (management) apart, let us rather harmonize the two to effectively and efficiently work as one. Finally, let us also understand that management and leadership can also exist on every individual – we can be at the same time a good leader and a manager of ourselves.

Victorino Abrugar is a retired CPA practitioner, a blogger, speaker, and an entrepreneur. He's the President of Optixor, Inc., a digital marketing company based in the Philippines. Follow him on Twitter at @viclogic.

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