Are you a Great Manager or a Great Leader?

Manager vs Leader


Leadership vs. Management

Retired U.S. Lieutenant General Russel Honore has stated that “leadership is working with goals and vision; management is working with objectives.”

What does that mean exactly? Many people use the words “leader” and “manager” interchangeably, but they are in fact two very different things.

Major differences between the two show in the characteristics each exude as a boss. Other differences include how they work within a company and the way they apply their personality to their job. General personality traits determine the most whether someone is a leader or a manager. Let’s dig into what some of these characteristics are.


A manager can be considered to offer a more transactional leadership style than a transformational one. They work with the assumption that employees respond best to a punishment and reward system, that social systems work best in a chain of command, that employees should carry out their tasks to the letter, and that they should take on responsibility for everything in their job description… and nothing else.

A manager is structured in their expectations, and leads in a way that shows subordinates that if they do what they are asked they will be rewarded, but if they don’t, there will be some form of punishment.

A manager is seen as a formal authority. They are more motivated by money, and they are generally reactive instead of proactive. Managers usually try to minimize risk. They tend to think more short term and focus on the bottom line. Some characteristics of a manager are that they seek to control, think with their head, and like to be right, often putting blame on others for a situation that has gone awry.


A leader has an entirely different management style. As mentioned, while a manager has more of a transactional leadership style, the leader has a transformational leadership style. What does this mean? Read on.

Working with this type of leader can be an uplifting experience for employees. A leader interjects enthusiasm and energy, and has a vision and passion that can be contagious. A leader thinks more long term instead of short term. They also tend to challenge the status quo.

Leaders are motivating. Leaders are more willing to break rules to makes improvements within the company. They ask themselves, “what are we doing that is holding us back?” And, “how can we improve?”

Leaders are proactive in resolving conflict instead of reactive. They try to avoid the problem before it actually becomes a problem. They are risk takers, give credit to those who deserve it, and often take the blame for others, as they see themselves as ultimately responsible for the success and failure of their team.

Comparing the Two Opposing Management Styles

The main difference between leaders and managers is that managers have people who work for them and leaders have people who follow them.

Leaders gain satisfaction from their jobs based on the work that gets done and on being successful, whereas managers primarily seek the monetary exchange for work completed.

Leaders strive for achievement, where managers strive for results. A leader learns from conflict, they attack it head on and approach it as room for growth within an organization, whereas a manager avoids conflict all together.

A leader gathers others opinions before making decisions, whereas a manager is just going to make a decision. Generally, employees are more likely to prefer a boss who respects them and will treat them as an equal and not someone that treats them as a subordinate at all times.

Balance Your Management Style

While there are clear differences in the two types of leadership styles, parts of both styles are actually required to make a business a success. Being too rigid a manager or too loose as a leader will almost always prove problematic.

For example, you may need a manager to set a specific time for a meeting, and set an agenda, instead of a leader who would approach the task allowing everyone to make the decision together.

Additionally, your approach likely needs to change based on who you are working with. Some employees may need precise direction that a manager provides. In some cases, giving an employee too much autonomy can be detrimental, especially if they perceive the leader to be as more of a friend rather than their superior. At the same time, another employee might thrive with the right encouragement and when they are allowed space to make their decisions by themselves.

Both leadership styles can be used together and be effective in running a great team. A mixture of both will create a great person to supervise, lead, and be the boss of a group of employees. Set the right example by being a responsible leader and your team will improve, grow, and follow your lead.

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