While a leader can have many of the same duties and responsibilities as a manager, what sets them apart is their ability to influence, motivate and enable employees to contribute to the overall success of an organization.
Several core characteristics set leaders apart from managers:
Leaders are visionaries
Leaders have a clear vision of where they want their organization to go, but they also recognize they’re not the only ones to make that vision come true. Thus, they encourage every other member of the organization to participate in the company’s overall vision. Additionally, leaders are responsible for translating the organization’s mission, vision and goals.
Leaders think ideas
Ideation is at the forefront of every leader’s mind. They operate on a forward-thinking mindset, always looking for opportunities to improve rather than maintain an organization’s operations.
Leaders inspire people
Leading by example is a core principle for any leader of an organization. Leaders believe that if you inspire people to do good work, employee motivation will follow.
Leaders think about the future
Leaders are always one step ahead. They’re constantly thinking about and motivated by a vision of the future. It’s also a leader’s responsibility to effectively translate this vision to the rest of an organization so every manager and employee can also feel inspired to follow it.
Leaders form the company culture
A leader should represent and uphold a company’s core values and beliefs. Part of their job is to set a good example for the rest of the company to follow. The best leaders have the ability to passionately communicate these values so all members of an organization are excited and proud to participate.
To further identify the difference between leadership and management, look for these five core qualities of a leader:
- Inspires others
- Recognizes employee success
- Demonstrates integrity
- Communicates decisively
- Shares the company vision
Managers are hired for a specific skill set or knowledge and usually come to the company with years of expertise under their belts. They’re usually held accountable for the quality of their employees’ work and thus are mostly concerned with meeting specific company goals every month. As a result, managers often manage the work of employees and not necessarily the employees themselves.
Several core characteristics set managers apart from leaders:
Managers follow the vision
A manager’s role is to ensure their employees are aligned with the company’s overall vision and goals. While they’re not defining the vision for the company, they play an equally important role in ensuring the core company values are upheld by every employee of an organization.
Managers execute ideas
A manager’s job is to make sure the goals of an organization are achieved efficiently and effectively. As opposed to generating new ideas, managers are responsible for executing the ideas of leaders.
Managers drive employee success
Since it’s not enough to simply be inspired, a manager’s role is to drive employees to succeed. Ideally, this is done through clear communication.
Managers focus on the present
Managers are concerned with meeting specific goals every month and spend a lot of energy scheduling and monitoring employees to meet these goals. As a consequence, they may not take into consideration the functions of an entire organization.
Managers endorse the culture
Part of a manager’s responsibility is to encourage employees to live up to the company culture and set a good example themselves.
Areas where leadership and management overlap
Common leadership roles within an organization include CEOs, presidents and vice presidents. The role of a manager usually includes any senior-level staff. However, the difference between a leader and a manager is not just about who holds more power. There are circumstances where leadership and management overlap. For example, a manager can display the same leadership qualities as a CEO, president or vice president.
The best way to identify leadership qualities in a manager is to consider their communication skills and their level of confidence, integrity, responsibility, empathy, fortitude and optimism.
Generally, both leaders and managers should be working hard to effectively communicate, problem-solve and make sound decisions that uphold the organization’s core values and work toward its core goals.
When to hire a leader vs manager
When identifying the difference between leadership and management, there’s generally one core distinction: Leaders enable employees, managers supervise employees’ work.
Leaders work in partnership with their employees and ensure all credit is shared. By contrast, managers focus primarily on achieving key goals within their specific team or department.
A good time to consider hiring a leader is when you notice workflow operations breaking down or high-performing employees leaving the company. This is usually an indicator that employees don’t feel supported, inspired or motivated to get work done. It’s important to recognize the negative traits of a bad boss, as there are many leadership development planning initiatives for improving managerial leadership skills.
Once you’ve recognized an issue within management or have encountered a manager unwilling to improve their leadership skills, it’s time to hire a leader who has the ability to intervene and turn things around by influencing and inspiring employees to get work done.