A Leader vs. Manager Perspective

I was in the midst of an annual performance review when a high potential manager asked me how she would know when she had crossed over from being a manager to a leader? This person had been managing teams and consistently performing well. In addition, she had pursued management education to improve her skillset. Her question set me thinking about the key aspects and differentiators between managers and leaders …

In my opinion, there are subtle differences between being a manager and a leader. As an example, a leader uses influence to get followers to coordinate to achieve goals; while a manager uses processes, procedures, and systems to get subordinates to work together to accomplish tasks.
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Further, leaders inspire and motivate people to effect a vision which creates value through innovation, creativity, and change.  In contrast, managers, due to their inherent positional authority, plan, organize, direct and control operations in order to execute the vision. They focus on quantifying value that results from successful leadership–leadership that empowers and enables followers.

Both managers and leaders are equally important.  Without leaders, an organization is unable to inspire and influence change or drive innovation.  Conversely, without managers, an organization is unable to execute change or measure results. The challenge lies in developing skills to lead change as well as manage day to day operations. Those individuals who are able to do both, will possess a competitive advantage.

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