Leading Versus Managing – A Comparison

In this era of globalization for today’s workplace, people always like to say that “A manager may be a leader; a manager may not be a leader, but a leader may emerge who is not a manager.” So what its means of this phrase? It means that a leader and a manager could be different. For example, an outstanding leader may have superior management skills, but not all managers could possess true leadership skills. In short, it is possible for the role of manager and leader not to be connected at all. This phrase is important to prove that having both talented managers and dedicated leaders make the business success. Why? Let’s see the difference between managers and leaders as following.

Manager and Leader – Definitions

By definition, a manager is an individual who is given a position and the power within an organization. In normal circumstance, he is normally promoted or has been recruited because of proven business competence or academic skills.

A leader is an individual who guides his followers toward a common goal, showing his way by example, and creating an environment which can make his team members feel actively involved in the entire process. A leader may not the boss of the team but, instead, the person is committed to carry out the mission of the venture. For example, the leader of the Democratic Party could be the head, principal, commander, captain or figurehead.

The team members or such followers follow leaders because they are influence by the leader’s personality, and share belief in the leader’s visions, goals and values. They follow what they want not they have to. Leaders gain personal power through credibility.

Differences between Manager and Leader

Not essentially all managers are leaders, and of course, not all the leaders are managers. They can be differentiated as the term below.

1.  Difference in the Term of Planning

First of all, the difference between managers and leaders can be seen in the term off their planning.

  • Manager plans a short-range view – In organization, managers are more concerned with executing the day-to-day operation of a company. For example, an Operation Manager plans the amount of how many products to be produced per day, how many of resources (raw material) to be used and how many man power that going to use. He needs to plan these everyday or once a week as the production line is unpredictable.
  • Leader plans a long-range perspective – However, leader thinks long term for organization. A good leader will develop and discuss the vision for the company. For example, a company’s CEO predicts the future market and develops a vision for his company product/service for long term profit.

2. Difference in the Kind of Working Environment

Besides that, managers and leaders can be differentiated in the kind of working environment. Some work alone, some prefer work as a team. The details are as following.

  • Manager works independent – Nowadays, most of the organizations have different departments such Accounting Department, Marketing Departments and so on due to specialization. Sometimes, the manager less communicates or cannot communicate well with his subordinates because normally managers like to work independently.
  • Leader works in teamwork – Leader is different. Leader always monitor how employees work within a team environment. He is being able to collaborate with others both top management and subordinates. A good leader always welcomes other people’s ideas, creates an environment where people feel free to share their opinions.

3. Difference in the Way that they carry out their work

Moreover, the difference between managers and leader can be seen in the way that how they carry out their works task too.

  • Manager maintains previous activity – Different department managers do their different type of work. For example, Financial Manager in charge of capital planning while Production Manager in charge of production. The range of their work is actually not wide but narrow, this is because what they need to do is maintain and to make sure that their work task is completely carried out.
  • Leader develops New Activity – Leaders, unlike manager, he is always develops new method of operation or activity for organization. Leader develops new idea to improve the organization in the term of productivity and profitability. A leader need to be creative and confident to carry out mission and vision for the company to ensure that organization is able to compete with others.

4. Difference in the way treat their employees

Managers and leaders treat their employees in different way. They are shown as below.

  • Manager gives order to the employees – In an organization, manager consider as one of the top management in company. Normally managers will give out the order like daily work task to his subordinates to make sure that their subordinates have something to do. And of course, those subordinates have to follow managers’ instruction.
  • Leader communicates and motivates employees – However, leaders are different. Leaders always like to inspire others to do their best work, and they threat it is an essential leadership skill. For example, a good leader is willing to train, develop and motivate those under their purviews.

Way to Become Manager or Leader or both

From the discussion above, the definition, characteristic and work task of managers and leaders are totally different. Therefore, people must identify the differences first and then see which position that they are going to be.

To be a Manager but not a Leader

To be a manager but not a leader, a manager need to focus on getting things done efficiently, especially for his job requirement. However, this does not mean that managers have an assembly line mentality. If one is managing educated knowledge workers, such as doctors in a medical clinic, he or she has to be empowering and supportive. Managers might not be able to tell the employees how to do their jobs anyway, but he or she can hold them accountable for the cost-effective delivery of services. For example, any decisions that the manager makes, such as say to expand the organization or purchase new equipment, are managerial decisions to help the organization to earn profit to the maximum.

To be a Leader but not a Manager

To be a leader but not a manager, one must showing leadership such as promoting a new direction, challenging the status quo and influencing people to think differently. As we known, leadership not only means taking charge of a group but also helping it to reach a goal. For instance, sometimes, the front-line knowledge workers help their boss to adopt new ideas, they are actually showing leadership to top management, even through they do not have any managerial authority. All employees can show their leadership skill in this way. In short, anyone could be a leader if he has the potency to do develop new ideas and able to lead a team of people.

To be Both a Manager and Leader

To be both manager and leader, the effective way is that person show leadership in two ways. For example, managers use their powers of persuasion, influence people who report to them to take actions they would not otherwise take. They communicate with their colleagues but not giving an order.

Furthermore, the second way that manager can be leader is by making decisions that move the organization in new directions. This is because leadership can be shown by anyone with a good idea to promote.


From the discussion above, it can be concluded that managers and leaders have different ways of getting things done. That is not to say that one is better than the other, but there are slightly different.

In the term of definition, managers are the person who is high position and have subordinates. They get their things done because they are in charge. They have the authority to order people what to do and have them do it. On the other hand, leader treats the employees like friends, he has followers. They make things done because they want people want to do them.

Besides that, leaders make the followers understand their situation and environment. When things go wrong, or are unclear, they are able to explain in patient and involve them in teamwork. On the other hand, managers do not need understanding, what they need is compliance.

Although there is not much to differentiate a good manager and a good leader, but there are some point of view that one should consider in the future.

Managers can become leaders, and leaders can become managers. Normally, management could be learnt, but leadership is more related to inherent quality. For example, a good leader could be like a motivator and a listener. While a good manager might be a good planner, strategist and delegator.

People say that: “Nothing will happen without management and nothing new happens without leadership”. Therefore, management skill and leadership skill are same important in this business environment. A successful business person of course will be both manager and leader. Remember, the key of success of any business is depends on having both capable managers and dedicated leaders.

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