It's evident when a team lacks a good manager or an organization lacks a good leader. In fact, I'm sure you can think back to a time when you had to deal with poor management or leadership in the workplace (most people have). Strong leadership and management have the most significant impact on team performance and overall success.
It is essential to understand the difference between the two and their impact on an organization. If you're a manager or leader, take a look at some of these qualities we share to see how you measure up (remember, there is always room for improvement!).
What is the difference between leadership and management?
Although the terms leader and manager are often used interchangeably, they are actually quite different from each other. While many qualities overlap, you'll find vast key differences between the two when you compare and contrast leadership and management. Most notably, a manager is responsible for the daily execution of the leader's vision, ideas, initiatives, and company culture. A true leader is responsible for creating and maintaining a strategic vision aligned with organizational goals.
Leader vs. Manager Venn diagram
The leader vs. manager roles
Typically, managers take control of the day-to-day operations such as keeping the team organized and focused, overseeing projects, and managing the processes and structure necessary for meeting organizational goals.
On the other hand, a leader is someone who inspires others (including managers) to follow their vision and ideas by contributing meaningfully. As a leader or a manager, combining qualities of both can make you more impactful in your role.
Manager vs. leader examples
By looking at various leadership and management examples, we can gain a better understanding of what it means to be a good manager vs good leader:
Good leadership examples
Great leaders are sometimes few and far between. Think of people like Mahatma Gandhi, who inspired millions with his vision of nonviolence and ultimately led his country to freedom with it.
Another example would be Abraham Lincoln, who relied on the abilities of his "managers," or colleagues, in the government to execute his ideas and vision for freedom from slavery in America.
Good management examples
To determine where the best managers in America work, a study by Comparably via CNBC Make It surveyed anonymous data submitted by three million employees representing over 45,000 large U.S. companies. The best managers were found in specific locations for companies such as Hubspot, Aflac, and Costco. The reason why they were determined to have the best managers? That same study quotes Comparably CEO Jason Nazar saying it was because "These managers expressed empathy and caring for their employees as individuals. There was a key sense that they were fair in their dealings with everybody. They empowered their team members to make key decisions and focused on their professional development.”
Management skills vs leadership skills
Let's take a look at the different leadership skills vs management skills and how they contribute to how managers work and effective leadership.
Because managers are in control over the execution of goals, strategy, staffing, and people and project management, they must master the necessary skills needed to do so efficiently and effectively. To learn more about what it takes to be a great people manager, check out our full-length blog post here.
Organization is a critical skill needed to succeed as a manager. As manager, you must find a way to manage processes, projects, and people. Sometimes, managers may have to become project managers and successfully organize larger projects into smaller segments. They must organize timelines and strategies to ensure that deadlines are met correctly. Without organization, chaos and uncertainty are sure to ensue.
Managers must learn to communicate appropriately with their employees; otherwise, requests can be lost in translation, they won't understand how to best support their employees, or projects could be wrongly executed. Communicating expectations, goals, direction clearly, and feedback is critically important as a people manager. This skill also includes a manager’s ability to speak clearly, persuade others, and listen to others. To communicate more effectively with employees, managers can also utilize personality frameworks like DISC to learn how to communicate with employees in a way that resonates best with them.
For example, a supportive, people-oriented S-type is less likely to enjoy an overly fact-focused, detailed discussion. They may become bored or frustrated, missing the point of the conversation entirely. On the other hand, if they were an analytical, questioning C-type, they would probably appreciate a discussion that focuses on specific, concrete facts and avoids involving much emotion. Taking advantage of Crystal for Teams can be especially helpful here!
Strong management knows employee strengths and can delegate to highlight them while avoiding any blind spots. Understanding how an employee will thrive, and delegating appropriately, can have a significant impact on overall team performance. Growth is inevitable when people work their best and spend their energy doing what they excel at. If employees are consistently delegated the wrong tasks, many aspects of the business could suffer.
There will always be problems that need solutions, and employees often look to their managers in times of crisis seeking support. Because managers are involved in everything from the decision-making process to employee wellbeing, there are numerous problems a manager could potentially encounter. Critical thinking, attention to detail, and open-mindedness can also be helpful in mastering this skill. When leaders are good at solving problems, success is more easily achieved.
Most people look at a job as a chance to grow their careers and skills. Unsurprisingly, opportunities for growth and development are big selling points for candidates. Being assured that the organization and manager care about their growth can increase engagement, productivity, and retention. Work with your employees to discuss their goals and plan, and make it a priority to check in with them regularly. As a strong mentor, managers must also prioritize building meaningful connections with their employees, offering support and guidance, and genuinely caring about individual progress. When team members feel connected with their manager, they likely will be more engaged and satisfied in the workplace.
Great leadership can inspire others towards a common goal and persuade followers to believe in and act on their vision. When employees feel empowered by their leadership and understand the role of their contributions, they are more motivated in their roles. While some leaders are born, others must practice and refine their leadership abilities.
If a leader lacks vision, nothing else is possible. A clear vision that inspires and motivates followers is critical to cultivating a team invested in its' organizational goals and excited to participate in reaching them. Having a leader that is confident in their ideas and the big-picture impact their vision has can help employees feel more secure and committed in their work. Seeing beyond the “current state of the organization” and driving growth with clarity is a necessary skill to lead others successfully.
Having strong communication skills is necessary for both managers and leaders. Leaders must have the ability to communicate their vision to their followers in a way that resonates, inspires, and persuades. They must be able to clearly define the goals and expectations that they set forth and empower others to work towards those goals.
Great leaders are aware of how their actions, words, and ideas impact the people they lead. This quality goes hand-in-hand with emotional intelligence-- leaders must have the capacity to empathize with their people, build meaningful connections, and understand how to best support them. By practicing objectivity when looking at their behavior, they can build self-awareness and inspire trust amongst their followers.
Rather than instructing others and taking a back seat as goals are hit or missed, leaders must be able to hold themselves accountable for the work that is done for the sake of their vision. They know they are responsible for the people they lead and will hold themselves accountable for decisions made--whether good or bad. An accountable leader will build more trust and feelings of security amongst their people.
In order to innovate effectively and develop fresh ideas, leaders must possess creativity. They proactively search for new ways to develop the organization further and reach goals, offering different perspectives and approaches. As they develop creative, innovative plans, the manager then must organize them into actionable steps for the team.
Leadership vs. management characteristics & traits
In addition to the qualities mentioned above, certain characteristics also make managers and leaders more effective. Check out the differences in leader vs. manager characteristics:
- Big-picture oriented
- Critical thinker
- Implements rules/processes
- Excellent communicator
Developing skills in leadership as a manager
There are many resources available online to help further develop leadership skills. An easy start is to become more aware of the skills in this article and make an effort to practice them daily. As more opportunities to lead present themselves, take advantage of your knowledge of what it means to be an effective leader. Welcome feedback from your team regarding your current approach and listen to what they have to say (don't take it personally, use it as a tool to elevate your leadership).
Take our free personality assessment to learn about your personality type and management style.
With so many great resources available, consider creating a reading list for yourself to keep you on track and continue learning to hone in on those leadership skills. You may also wish to enroll in a training program or find out if your organization offers training and development opportunities.
Our key takeaways on management vs. leadership
Although the terms are often used interchangeably in the professional world, there are vast differences between management and leadership. Leaders must possess the ability to create innovative ideas and visions and inspire others to work towards that common goal. On the other hand, managers must take that vision and organize it, implement it, and guide employees as they work towards that common goal. Although their mission is different, leaders and managers do share many qualities: they must be empathetic, people-focused, and excellent communicators. Strong leadership and management are fundamental in a well-functioning, high-performing, healthy team.
To better understand the role personality plays in leadership and management, take our free personality assessment today.
Are managers and leaders the same?
Although often used interchangeably, there are many differences between managers and leaders. While leaders are typically the visionaries who empower others with their great ideas, managers are the ones who are responsible for implementing, overseeing, and organizing them in the day-to-day.
Are all managers leaders?
Not all managers make great leaders, and vice versa (although it definitely is possible!). There are many steps managers can take to practice their ability to lead and inspire others.
Can a leader be a manager?
A leader can definitely be a manager if they are able to organize, strategize, delegate, and manage effectively.