Differences Between Managers and Leaders

Quite often leading and managing are considered as synonymous terms. Both require several qualities or traits and both are processes involving interpersonal relations. Both involve setting goals and mobilizing resources. They are complementary qualities inexorably linked to each other, and any attempt to extricate one from the other is impossible. What is the difference between management and leadership? It is a question that has been asked more than once and also answered in different ways.

“There is a profound difference between management and leadership, and both are important. To manage means to bring about, to accomplish, to have charge of or responsibility for, to conduct. Leading is influencing, guiding in a direction, course, action, opinion. The distinction is crucial” – Quote from “On Becoming a Leader” by Warren Bennis

But in reality there are several differences between managers and leaders:

  1. Relationship: Management implies superior-subordinate relationship. This relationship arises within organizational context. On the other hand, leadership can occur anywhere within or without organization context. For example: A mob can have a leader but not a manager. Informal groups have leaders but not managers. Leadership is possible in both formally organized as well as unorganized groups. But management is possible only in formal and organized groups.
  2. Source of Influence: A manager is appointed and he obtains authority from his position. He makes use of his formal authority to influence the behaviour of his subordinates. On the contrary, a leader is not always appointed and he derives his power from his followers who accept him their leader. A leader makes use of this power to influence the attitudes and behavior of his followers.
  3. Sanctions: A manager has command over the allocation and distribution of rewards (positive sanctions), e.g., promotion and punishments (negative sanctions), e.g., demotion. On the other hand, a leader has command over social satisfaction and related task rewards.
  4. Basis of Following: Both managers and leaders have followers. But the people follow them for different reasons. People follow a manager because they are required to follow by their job description supported by a system of rewards and penalties. On the contrary, people follow the leader on voluntary basis. If there are no followers there can be no leader. But a manager may be there even if there are no followers but only subordinates. A manager may continue in office so long as his performance is considered satisfactory. Whereas a leader can survive as long as followers accept him.
  5. Accountability: A manager is accountable for his own behavior as well as for the job behavior of his subordinates. His accountability for performance is clearly defined. But there is no clear-cut accountability relationship in leadership as a leader is not accountable for behavior in the same way. A manager seeks to achieve organizational goals but a leader is more concerned with group goals and member’s satisfaction.
  6. Functions: A manager performs all the functions of planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling. On the other hand, the main job of a leader is to guide and inspire the efforts of his followers.

Conclusion:  “A leader need not be a manager but a manager must have many of the qualities of a good leader.”