Leadership vs management: why a manager is not necessarily a leader

Post by Open Colleges on January 04th, 2023

Quite often the terms “leadership” and “management” are used interchangeably. There are many commonalities between the two, such as working with and influencing people, but there are also big differences. One common saying is that leaders have followers, whereas managers have employees.

Keep reading to find out 6 reasons why a manager is not necessarily a leader.


Managers have skills. Leaders have qualities

A manager’s key responsibility is delivering organisational goals by directing employees with their work and tasks. They follow organisational protocols to maintain command and control and an employee will follow their directions because they have to.

However, a leader is not as bound to, or governed by an organisations’ protocols. A good leader constantly tries to innovate and develop new and more efficient ways of getting a job done. A leader trusts, empowers and encourages their team members to get the most out of themselves to inspire results.

Employees follow managers because of their job description and title; however, they will follow a leader because they believe in who they are as a person.

A leader asks 'what' and 'why'. A manager focuses on 'how' and 'when'

Managers are focused on setting and achieving tasks, goals and the bottom line. They must meet expectations and accomplish their organisations objectives or risk losing their job and title. They need to ensure systems and structures are being followed at all times. 

But leaders challenge the current process in order to seek greater success. They look for different ways to achieve goals and encourage forward thinking and innovation by asking how and when.  

Leaders are concerned with people, managers with the process

Managers focus on managing work and output. They assign tasks to their team members, track and manage results, and ensure systems and structures are being followed. A manager’s goals arise out of necessities, rather than desires.

A leader focuses on the people themselves. They are concerned with employee satisfaction and use their influence to ensure their team members perform well. Leaders encourage people to grow by motivating and inspiring them to achieve their goals.


Managers are focused more on short-term goals

Mangers tend to be more focused on short-term goals because they are governed and controlled by their organisations expectations.

But a leader is constantly looking forward to the future. They see the bigger picture and are less focused on logistics. They inspire people to follow their vision by motivating them to see how things could be.

Leaders are unique. Managers mimic

Leaders are allowed the freedom to be themselves, whereas a manager must follow their companies’ guidelines. They are the ‘voice’ of their company, which restricts them from developing their own voice and innovations.

Managers minimise risk. Leaders are risk-takers

Leaders are more strategic than managers. They push beyond the limits and are willing to break rules to stretch themselves and their teams towards success. They are willing to try new things, even if it results in failure.

Managers are all about minimising risks. They do not have the freedom to take initiative because they are governed by their companies’ expectations and goals.


Find the online qualification that best fits your needs to help you achieve your career goals and become the leader you’ve always wanted to be. Explore our range of Leadership and Business Management courses today.

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