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Are you a Manager or a Leader?: 10 Key Differences

Updated: Mar 17

The two terms are synonymous, right? This post will point out how really different the terms are in our opinion. We will do our best to not get lost in the clichés that commonly are associated with this topic.

Quite simply put, a manager is merely a title. A leader is someone who is deserving of the designation only through their ability to inspire, motivate, unify a team, and achieve a common goal. Here are some of what we feel are the key distinctions for anyone who aspires to be an effective leader:

  1. The manager title is bestowed on someone by their higher management. A leader is recognized as such by the team he or she leads.

  2. Team members will 'obey' a manager. Team members trust and 'follow' a leader.

  3. A manager may try to ensure the team 'feels supported'. A leader actively seeks out ways to help the team.

  4. A manager often feels some of the team tasks are beneath him, using phrases like 'not the best use of my time'. If the team floor cleaner is out sick, a leader will not hesitate to grab the mop.

  5. A manager may have a 'do what I say because I am your boss' approach with the team. A team under an effective leader will follow the leader because he has earned their trust and they believe in a common vision.

  6. A team under a manager will often feel a 'team vs. boss' attitude. A team under an effective leader considers the leader part of team.

  7. A manager may appear to the team as having an easier job than they do. A leader strives to be the hardest working, most dedicated member of the team.

  8. A manager will often demonstrate a difficulty in making decisions. A leader takes initiative, will stick his neck out for the team, and make quick decisions to avoid detaining the team progress.

  9. A manager will often appear to represent higher management and the company. A leader will always represent and protect the team.

  10. A leader can also be a manager but a manager is not necessarily a leader.

Got experiences with management vs. leadership? We would love to hear them! Post them in the comments below.

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