Industry Insights 5 Manager Versus Leader- What’s The Difference?

Industry Insights


Manager Versus Leader- What’s The Difference?

by | Jul 13, 2023 | All, Featured, Leadership, Nearshoring

About The Author Steve Taplin

Steve Taplin, CEO of Sonatafy Technology, is a serial entrepreneur with extensive expertise in software development, MVP product development and the management of staff augmentation services.

You often hear the words “manager” and “leader” used interchangeably in conversations about workflows by HR professionals. However, leading and managing are different. Managers can be leaders, but this is only sometimes the case.

Nevertheless, many workers, in my experience, say they left a job because of their manager, revealing serious issues among office workers who want promotions and want to make a difference at the corporate level. Consequently, bad management is a huge problem from a talent perspective. How many potential leaders leave one company after another because of bad management?

More often than not, businesses, and all other organizations with corporate structures, conflate management and leadership roles within work culture. The result is an organizational culture where a manager might not be suited for leadership but gets thrown into the fire with mixed results. Conversely, a leader who also manages is a unique individual who understands the big picture. However, managing might interfere with a leader’s focus on vision and mission.

Leaders accomplish things by keeping the mission and vision front and center. Use caution. Leader-managers work hard and are prone to burnout. People burn out from constant workplace managing that no one else does, burning hot with fuel that might run out before the job gets done.

The Crucial Differences Between Leadership And Management

Entrepreneurs and CEOs instinctively understand what it takes to be successful. Unfortunately, many don’t understand the differences. Leaders who are also effective managers balance the big picture—the vision and mission—with the day-to-day operations of the organization. Sometimes this works, but there’s no guarantee. The better approach is to separate the two roles and use one to complement the other.

Toxic leadership is one of the most dangerous things a leader can do. This happens when people in leadership roles abuse their power. For example, workplace harassment creates a manager/boss who is a toxic leader, mainly if the subordinate’s job depends on being silent about the harassment. Avoid toxic leaders by watching for traits common in all poisonous leaders: Arrogance, irritability and selfishness can be quickly spotted if you look for them. If your manager orders people around with seriousness, watch out for autocratic behavior, such as unrealistic expectations, aiming to make them look good.

Abstract Thinking Can Lead To Abstract Managing

Consider this play on words an extension of why many managers and leaders suffer burnout. If any part of a management style is abstract, there might be confusion in the ranks. By definition, leaders think in the abstract and then implement management that they understand will meet the vision and mission. Going from making an idea come true to the management of a team can be counterintuitive because the leadership leans autocratic.

Difference one: Leaders empower people to become leaders. Managers want to keep power so that they can keep doing the job. This is OK if it’s an excellent manager who gets results. Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance. Good leaders need all viewpoints for decision-making. Toxic leaders have no use for anything that doesn’t make them look good.

Watch Out For Autocratic Managers

Autocratic managers don’t do well in organizations that use project management workflows. The United States spearheaded project management at the federal level with its push to land on the moon. It would not have happened by 1970 if autocratic managers were running the Space Program. Autocrats want to order people to do things or micromanage subordinates, which can lead to project failure because the manager seems narcissistic. Their successes as managers aren’t visionary because success is all about them rather than the vision.

Difference two: Leaders take overlapping duties and make them work for the vision/mission. Managers sometimes stray into leadership duties because of ambition, leading to potential resentment and competing organizational cultures.

An autocratic manager can lead to mutiny in the ranks because team members understand the manager’s ambition as self-centered. Contrast this with other leadership philosophies like servant leadership. A servant leader makes a good manager because team members understand the leader’s or manager’s motivations. In servant leadership, team success comes from understanding how each team member fits into the big picture.

Difference three: Managers order people to do things; leaders, especially servant leaders, ask team members how to improve their lives so that the team benefits from collaboration.

Leaders like showing team members how to do things better. Managers like seeing positive results from their teams but take all the credit. Remember that autocratic leaders and managers view their successes as the reasoning behind the team’s success. Rule of thumb: Leaders consider people, and managers get motivation from team success.

Knowing these differences makes it easy to identify toxic leadership, the worst possible situation for a business, because it promotes doing things that make employees unhappy. Those under the manager might look for a different job.

Leaders Should Inspire People

We put inspiration in the spotlight because it can lead to team success. Servant leaders who inspire success see the big picture—one that looks beyond the company or organizational success toward developing leadership skills in team members. All leadership isn’t servant leadership in nature, but all leadership should inspire success.

Difference four: Leaders praise their team when they’re successful. Managers, even the good ones, still view success in their job as a product of what they did. Leaders focus outward, and managers are almost narcissistic because they control the project.

Managers Versus Leaders

Managers develop processes and workflows for team members. Managers make something run efficiently. In contrast, leaders develop and inspire people to be the best bet for future leaders. Servant leadership is one of many effective leadership styles, and knowing what servant leaders do can help you recognize toxic leaders.

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