Differences between a leader and a manager

By: Glenn Magas
12 January, 2010

There should be no differences between a leader and a manager. The two 'titles' should coexist with one another, but often times a manager lacks leadership abilities. In order to be an effective manager, he or she should be able to influence and persuade: these are leadership skills.

The question then should be: What are the differences between an effective leader/manager versus an ineffective leader/manager; as both a leader and a manger can, and should, be one and the same.

These are the 7 big differences between a great leader and a mediocre manager:

  1. A great leader gets their employee out of the mess. A mediocre manager keeps them in the mud.
  2. A great leader is interested when their employee speaks. A mediocre manager likes to listen to themselves talk.
  3. A great leader praises with honest appreciation. A mediocre manager always calls attention to mistakes.
  4. A great leader looks to always give recognition. A mediocre manager looks to always get recognition.
  5. A great leader takes the blame and lets the employee shine. A mediocre manager blames the employee and always takes the credit.
  6. A great leader helps other people. A mediocre manager is self serving.
  7. A great leader wants to create more leaders. A mediocre manager wants to squash ambition.

Again, there should be no difference between leadership and management. These roles should be one and the same. The struggle is to get the manager to be a more efficient and effective leader so that the two 'terms' are interchangeable.

If a manager focuses on being a great leader, the result is a better, more productive, staff. Here are the differences explained:

1. A great leader gets their employee out of the mess. A mediocre manager keeps them in the mud.

We learn from failures. We learn from mistakes. A great leader will point those out in a constructive way and works to fix them together with their staff, employee, or followers.

If a manager points out mistakes, and either fixes them without anyone's help, or just lets it go, nobody improves, and nothing is learned. A mediocre manager will address mistakes, but seeks no resolution to fix them.

2. A great leader is interested when their employee speaks. A mediocre manager likes to listen to themselves talk.

Listening is hearing. In order to get the most out of communication, the leader will hear, empathise, and if need be, apologise, respond accordingly, and say thanks.

All these skills come from listening actively and carefully, while anticipating and encouraging questions. A mediocre manager loves to hear himself talk. It is as if they appreciate the sound of their own voice and does not even have a clue if people are listening.

More is accomplished when a leader listens at least 80% of the time, and speaks 20% of the time.

3. A great leader praises with honest appreciation. A mediocre manager always calls attention to mistakes.

Recognition goes a long way. A pat on the back, a job well done, and even a simple smile gives the employee a sense of purpose, and with this propose comes acknowledgement that they accomplished certain goals. A great leader will always praise and lets the employee shine, and when there are mistakes, solves them together.

4. A great leader looks to always give recognition. A mediocre manager looks to always get recognition.

Too often a manager will take recognition just because their team did excellent work. Without the team, without the work of many, a leader cannot achieve greatness. A great leader will always give the recognition instead of getting the recognition, whereas the mediocre manager will always want recognition for the work done by others.

These are insecurities that can lead to a manager's failure. The confidence to let others get the recognition shows the great qualities of a leader.

5. A great leader takes the blame and lets the employee shine. A mediocre manager blames the employee and always takes the credit.

A great leader wants to create great work! But if the work is not up to par, if there are mistakes, the great leader will take responsibility. They will take the blame. A mediocre manager will blame individuals for failures, and won't let the employee shine when there is credit due.

6. A great leader helps other people. A mediocre manager is self serving.

Do you want to be great? Help other people. Once a mediocre manager realises that self service will not get you anywhere, he transitions into a leader. By helping many achieve what they want, a leader/manager will eventually get what they want.

7. A great leader wants to create more leaders. A mediocre manager wants to squash ambition.

The ultimate goal for a great leader is to create other leaders. Create other people to be able to take your role if need be. Looking over your shoulder for fear that someone 'below' will take your job is what a mediocre manager will always do. That manager will squash ambition for fear that another employee's goal may be to achieve greater success than their own personal successes. A great leader is confident, develops the potential leaders around, and develops ambition instead of demoralizing it.

The ultimate goal of a manager is to be an effective leader. Leadership and management should go hand-in-hand, but too often, this is not the case. The comparison and differences between leaders and managers are not about the differences, but whether a manager is an effective leader or not.

Have your say...

Bernie Althofer | Tuesday, 12 January 2010, 9:38 AM
Interesting comments and a reflection of many workplaces. However, I have noticed that a third type of person occupies some 'managerial' positions and that is the administrator. They are more interested in paper shuffling and avoid anything to do with people. This only leads to increase workplace conflict and avoidance of staff.
Mary Tehan | Thursday, 14 January 2010, 4:05 PM
Leaders, besides "growing their employees' potential", also always take responsibility to creatively keep "growing their own potential" ... Mary Tehan
Jim G. George | Wednesday, 9 November 2011, 3:26 AM
As a consultant I have noticed three types of projects: Administered projects - Those where all the administrative steps were followed, all the paper work done and checked off, problems were reacted to in a timely way, people are encouraged to stay on task and on schedule, the client's issues were resolved -- but no value was added, people were not developed, client relationships were not built, and no follow-on work was identified and sold. Managed projects - Beyond administration, good communication existed, problems were anticipated as well as reacted to, people's development was addressed, the value identified in the business case was considered in all design decisions, and the client felt they got what they paid for. As a result, we may get additional work on similar projects in the future. Led projects - Leading goes beyond managing. A leader has a vision and communicates it to the project team and to the client. Visions have power to excite people and provide a common basis for all design decisions. In a led project, value beyond the initial business case is identified in the course of the project and either baked into the effort or noted and set aside as a follow-up project. People are encouraged to think about potential value as they go about their assigned tasks and to identify new issues and ideas at any point in time. Led projects almost always pay for themselves and lead to more work.
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