Business & Leadership

Leader vs. Manager: Know the Difference & Be Successful

Uncover Your Inner Leadership Potential

Take the Quiz to See!

Are you a manager… or are you a leader? An organization needs both types of people to be successful. 

Leaders are visionary, big picture thinkers with the passion and charisma to inspire others to help them bring their vision to life.

Managers have analytic minds and organizational skills required to keep everything running smoothly and ensure that their team has what they need to succeed.  

When it comes to leaders vs. managers, oftentimes, people are both. 

The best managers tend to have great leadership skills and are able to empower and inspire their team to aim higher, dream bigger, and strive to get better results.

And most great leaders, having climbed the rungs of management to get where they are now, still have an innate sense of how to manage resources, and implement processes to ensure everything runs smoothly and people deliver their best work. 

You don’t have to be a great leader to be an effective manager – but it certainly helps, especially if you dream of making a bigger impact on the world and on the lives of other people. 

I want to help you develop your leadership skills and grow your understanding of how leadership and management compare and differ from each other. That’s why I’ve written this article! 

First, familiarize yourself with the differences between leading vs managing. Then, you’ll know how you’re currently showing up in the world and what you must learn in order to teach and inspire others as effectively as possible. 

Here’s your chance to learn more about the qualities of a leader vs. a manager. You can recognize how to be an effective manager and leader – and overcome the roadblocks that are stopping you from becoming the impact-maker you were born to be!

Leader vs. Manager: Who Are They?

Knowing the difference between a leader vs. a manager will help you become a better motivator, business owner, teacher, trainer, coach, parent – even a better spouse. 

When you show up in the world as a leader, people will naturally be more inclined to listen to you, follow your advice, and strive to do their best.

They won’t do what you ask or advise simply because they feel they “have to” – they’ll do it because they know it’s the right thing to do. 

But when you focus only on managing people, as opposed to leading and inspiring them, you run the risk of becoming a micro-manager and robbing your team of their full agency and potential to rise. 

So, what’s the difference between leading vs. managing? 

Let’s start by considering the question: what does a leader do vs. what does a manager do? What are the roles of each and what kind of impact do they make on those around them? 

Let’s take a closer look. 

What Does a Leader Do?

A leader isn’t defined by their role or position in an organization or business. A person can be a c-level executive and still be an absolutely terrible leader, while the newest hire in the mailroom may already be improving productivity and morale and inspiring others to do their best.

Leaders aren’t defined by what they are but rather by who they are and how they impact the world around them. 

Leaders don’t compel grudging obedience – they attract devoted followers. Their personality, charisma, and vision draw people toward them and inspire them to do what they can to make the leader’s vision a reality. 

That’s where the power and impact of a leader comes in. Leaders get people excited about their work and are passionately invested in achieving the vision of the organization. And the best leaders do this by giving people a sense of ownership in what the organization is trying to achieve. 

Instead of making declarative statements of how things will be done, leaders ask for your input then provide a compelling vision that others are eager to get behind because they see their own ideas and input reflected in it. As a result, they feel more ownership and connection to the organization’s success.

Leaders understand that the key to becoming a leader worth following is to focus on the success of others and doing everything they can to empower their team and achieve their goals.

They earn respect and loyalty not by demanding it but by inspiring others to trust and believe in them – as well as in themselves. 

What Do Managers Do?

A manager is someone in an organization who is responsible for a team or department. 

Managers oversee the day-to-day operations – planning, organizing, and directing the performance and results of their team. Their position within the organization is clearly defined and has specific duties associated with it. 

A manager’s purpose is to focus on achieving the goals and objectives of the organization by making sure the team is productive and successful at performing the tasks assigned to them. 

The extent to which a manager is a good leader will determine how effective the manager is at boosting employee engagement and creating a culture of success

Qualities of a Leader vs. Manager

How can you tell if someone is a leader vs. manager? 

Leaders are people who never have to raise their voices to be heard. When they speak, people automatically listen – not because they have to or simply want to. 

Managers are often awarded their positions in the organization because they have specific technical skills, knowledge, and expertise in a given field or industry. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they have what it takes to influence and inspire people on their team. 

Leaders know how to motivate others to do and achieve more — not by instilling fear but by helping them discover their true potential. 

Leadership Traits

Leaders have a clear vision of what they want to achieve and create. They know exactly where they stand and where they want to go and are skilled at inspiring others to assist them in bringing that vision to life. They are unruffled by daily ups and downs and keep their gaze focused on long-term results. 

Leaders also tend to be positive people who focus on solutions instead of problems. 

What does a leader do when faced with challenges? They embrace it because they know every obstacle is an opportunity to learn. 

Leaders understand that inspired collaboration is the key to success and create a workplace culture where everyone feels comfortable contributing their thoughts and ideas.

They also value out-of-the-box thinking and are constantly challenging themselves and others to aim higher and do their best. 

Thanks to their higher-than-average rates of emotional intelligence, leaders are empathetic to the needs and goals of their employees. They hold themselves and others accountable for their actions and value honesty and integrity above all other qualities.   

Management Traits

The goal of a manager is to execute the vision of a company. 

Managers have a specific set of goals and objectives they must achieve and it is their responsibility to instruct their team and ensure that all members work productively to achieve those goals and objectives. 

Another leader vs. manager difference is that while leaders are the people who create culture, managers are the ones who support and perpetuate that culture.

They look after the people on their team and make sure all individuals have the resources and support they need to do a great job. 

Good managers often tend to be analytical problem solvers who are always looking for ways to improve performance. They create new processes and establish rules and standards that are designed to help things run more smoothly and efficiently. 

Because a manager’s job often involves putting out fires that arise on a daily basis, they tend to focus more on the short-term than on the long-term vision of the organization. 

Leadership and Management Similarities

Although the role and qualities of a leader vs a manager might be different within an organization, they share many important similarities as well. 

For example, both leaders and managers require excellent communication skills. Knowing how to communicate effectively with others is crucial for anyone who wants to motivate people to do their best. 

However, leaders tend to be more inspiring in the way they communicate and encourage people to buy into their vision. Whereas managers (good ones, at least) tend to focus on empowering people and give them what they need to do their job to the best of their abilities. 

Leaders and managers also both need to be adept at crisis management, problem-solving, and decision-making. 

To succeed in the face of unexpected challenges, they must be able to adapt to a changing world and work collaboratively with others to overcome obstacles that appear on their path. 

That’s how to be an effective leader and manager no matter what kind of organization or industry you work in. 

Defining Your Role as a Leader vs Manager

To determine whether you want to be a leader vs. manager, consider your life purpose and the path you’ll need to take in order to achieve your goals and dreams. 

If you are — or want to become — a successful entrepreneur or business owner, it’s a good idea to focus on developing the skills required of a good leader.

One way to do this is to learn how to coach people to be their best. Deliver feedback effectively so they can overcome their limitations and get better results in everything they do. 

If, on the other hand, you want to focus on the analytical and process-based side of overseeing a team, developing your skills as a manager is the way to go. 

Either way, you must know how to set and achieve goals for yourself and teach others how to do the same.

And the more you develop strong leadership skills on top of your management skills, the more effective you will be as a manager and team leader.

At the end of the day, learning how to be a good leader may seem harder for you to achieve but it will ultimately bring you more success and fulfillment in the long run. 

Discover Your Leadership Potential

Take my short 5-minute Leadership Quiz to uncover your inner potential and discover how to make a bigger impact on others and the world around you. 

Here’s your chance to identify your key talents and abilities to learn how to leverage them and live your purpose by elevating others to greatness! 

Meet Jack Canfield

For over 40 years, he has been teaching entrepreneurs, educators, corporate leaders, and people from all walks of life how to create the life they desire.

As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul(r) series, he's taught millions of individuals his modernized formulas for success, and has trained and certified over 2,700 students to teach his content and methodology in 107 countries around the world.