Leaders versus Manager a Comparison

Lately I have been working on a project to create an environment to learn about leadership.  But I am finding that organizations often do not differentiate between a leader and a manager.  We often see a manager as a leader, but yet they are two distinct skill sets, leaders are often seen as someone who directs and instructs people and makes important decisions for the organization.  In fact a leader may have some of those attributes but a leader is much more than that.

Reh (n.d.) states that “At the most basic level, a leader is someone who leads other.”  This is a pretty fundamental statement, if a leader does not have a follower, then you are not leading.  I have said the same thing about a manager, a manager without direct reports is an employee not a manager.  I have worked in jobs where I had a title like Data Manager, but in fact I managed data not people, so in fact I was not a manager at all, perhaps the job is really Data Management.  Of course companies like to give titles to people to make them feel important. But if a manager does not have a direct report, or if a leader does not have a follower, they are neither a Manager nor a Leader.

Allen, M. (n.d.) has a great list of the differences between a leader and a manager.  Go through the list I think it really spells out a lot of differences.

– The manager administers; the leader innovates.

– The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.

– The manager maintains; the leader develops.

– The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.

– The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.

– The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.

– The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

– The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.

– The manager imitates; the leader originates.

– The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.

– The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.

– The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.


Think about any of the mangers you have had over the years,  if your manager was more concerned with organizing the work of the department, making sure that the right resources were assigned to tasks, ensure the tasks were executed with quality.  Then you were not led, you were managed.  A leader does not look at people as someone to order around, they look to develop their employees, give them purpose; they inspire employees to do their work by nurturing peoples skills that allows them to develop the talents needed to get the job done right.  Of course a manager may be a leader, but in actual fact anyone can be a leader, leaders can be anywhere in the organization.  Organizations should be looking for these leaders in their organizations and nurturing them, they are the future of the organization.


Reh, J. (n.d) ‘What is a leader?’[Online]. Available at: http://management.about.com/od/leadership/a/whatisaleader.htm (Accessed: October 15, 2013)

Allen, M. (n.d.) ‘What is the difference between Management and Leadership?’ [Online]. Available at: http://guides.wsj.com/management/developing-a-leadership-style/what-is-the-difference-between-management-and-leadership/  (Accessed: October 15, 2013)



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