The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager

by | Sep 17, 2015 | Culture, Leadership | 5 comments

Here’s an update of one of my most popular posts, The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager.

Recently, on Twitter, I got into a disagreement with someone on the difference between the role of a manager and the role of a leader.  Those who know me, know that I believe disagreement sharpens people, ideas and organizations.  Agreeable disagreement causes us to examine our beliefs and it challenges us to make sure that we’re practicing what we preach.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”18″ bg_color=”#00acc6″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]I believe that we manage things (processes, procedures and outcomes) and we lead people (employees, customers and others).[/mks_pullquote]
I believe that there are very distinct differences between the role of a manager and the role of a leader.  But the roles should not be in conflict with each other.  Sustainable, high-performance organizations recognize that there is a symbiotic relationship between managers and leaders and they ensure that both are being utilized effectively.

I believe that we manage things (processes, procedures and outcomes) and we lead people (employees, customers and others).

Here are examples of differences that I’ve identified (I’d love to hear yours in the comment section below):

A manager focuses on process and procedure, a leader focuses on people.

A manager administrates.  A leader envisions.

A manager maintains.  A leader develops.

A manager measures projections.  A leader projects measures.

A manager ensures that things are done right.  A leader ensures that the right things are being done.

A manager ensures that rules are followed (such as laws, regulations and policy).  A leader empowers and inspires innovation.

A manager deals in detail.  A leader in possibility.

A manager magnifies corporate policies, processes and procedures.  A leader magnifies the person, their capabilities and their purpose.

A manager deals in the probable.  A leader deals in the possible.

Managers are, by design, implementers of rules, organizers of details, and they ensure compliance.  Leaders are challengers of rules, casters of vision and they define purpose.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”18″ bg_color=”#00acc6″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]Followers look to managers for tasks, they look to leaders for purpose.[/mks_pullquote]Followers look to leaders for a vision of their destination, they look to managers for the road map that tells them how to get there.  The most effective leaders employ managers who know how to build the best road map.

While it may seem that the manager and the leader cannot coexist with one another, it is imperative that they do.

Today, organizational cultures seem in constant flux between authoritarian environments (led by managers), and laissez faire environments (managed by leaders).  Both cultures are unbalanced, destructive and are unsustainable.

The late, Zig Ziglar wrote that “the leader and the manager must communicate effectively and regularly so that all the people understand the support each supplies to the other.”

Sustainable high-performance cultures are purpose-drivenLeaders lead and managers manage.  Both are in agreement and are bound by a common (often written) corporate code.  Their symbiotic relationship serves both employees and organizations, well.



Posts by Category

Sign up for Ron Alvesteffer's blog

* = required field

About Me

I am the President & CEO of Service Express, a National Best & Brightest Company to Work For. Service Express has averaged double digit growth every year since 2001.

We attribute our success to a unique corporate culture that we call The Service Express Way. I am a member of the Young President Organization and sit on the Board of the Spectrum Health Foundation.