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

Some people think of the words Manager and Leader and think they are the same. The two are related, but the jobs are different. They might look the same, but don’t mean the same. Both Manager and Leader have different responsibilities in an organization. Leader will influence and set example for others to follow, this is called “do as I do, and Manager is do what I say”. In real life, some Managers possess leadership qualities and some Leaders possess some managerial qualities. Managers and Leaders are two different kinds of characters. It’s not easy to see the difference because the qualities of Managers and Leaders are each combined in the same person.

But if once observe the qualities in each person, one will know differences between managers and leaders because Manager tends to manage the work and rules, and Leaders deal with personal issues of people, and also know that a Leader does not have subordinates, a leader has followers. Sometimes societies and organizations need either a manager or a leader, or sometimes they need both managers and leaders. Their motivations, personal history, their way of thinking and attitude are different.

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 management such as 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.

In short we can say,

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates.
  • The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
  • The manager maintains; the leader develops.
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
  • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
  • The manager imitates; the leader originates.
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
  • The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

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