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What is the difference between a leader and a manager?

"Leadership is the art of getting someone to do something for you because they want to do it. »Dwight Eisenhower

Contrary to popular belief, Leadership and management are not synonymous. And if a person can be both a manager and a leader, he can also be a manager without being a leader and vice versa.

If you consult the dictionary online, here is what you find:

- Leader: the person who, within a group, takes most of the initiatives, leads the other members of the group, holds the command.

- Manager: a person who does management, who organizes, manages something, runs a business, a service, etc.

The manager is an organizer

The manager derives his authority from the hierarchy, which designates him as such.

Its main power is linked to the company. Indeed, it has a formal team, over which it exercises its authority. Its main role is focused on the task. It is he who organizes and coordinates in a company. He also controls the activity of his teams, such as planning and reporting. What also differentiates him is that he has goals and must do everything possible to achieve them. The manager is important for a company to ensure a good overall organization. 

The leader is a viewer. 

The leader derives his authority from the members of the group, who recognize him as such. Above all, he has his powers due to the relationship he builds with the members of a group. It is, therefore, people-centered. The team of which he is the center generally recognizes him as an informal authority. It is, therefore, in a way, the driving force within a group. It is from him that proposals and initiatives come. Its role is to propose and influence. He has a vision and seeks to achieve it. Its negative side is that it can sometimes be perceived as a source of disorganization and dispersion. It is essential in a business. It is he who motivates the troops. 

The leader and the manager: essential within a company 

The leader is not necessarily better than a manager or a manager than a leader. A manager and a leader are both essential to the smooth running of the business. A good manager is necessary in order to obtain an efficient organization of the activity. But a good leader is also very useful for better training and motivating teams. If a manager can be a perfect leader within his team, you can be a leader without being a manager, and you can manage without necessarily being a leader yourself.

Within a company, leader and manager are both essential, but it is often difficult to distinguish them. The difference lies in the level of authority of each exercise. The manager is a function. His hierarchy appoints him as the leader of a team, and the people work for him. Conversely, the leader was not appointed. He is followed, respected, and admired, due to what he has accomplished, his vision and his ideas.

The eight differences between a leader and a manager

1. The unique vs. the existing

2. A vision vs. goals

3. Change vs. improvement

4. Risk-taking Vs. risk control

5. Regular learning Vs. learning

6. Building relationships Vs. building processes

7. Advice Vs. lead

8. Admirers Vs. employees

Discover the 8 differences between a leader and a manager to understand their role and no longer confuse them.

The unique vs. the existing

A true leader is not afraid of being himself. He is authentic, honest, and transparent. It is often a charismatic person who naturally commands respect and commands admiration. A leader is good about himself and is not afraid to be noticed, in particular, by offering his ideas and his vision.

Generally, the manager adopts a management style and follows behaviors that he has observed in other managers or learned during studies or training. He does not (or rarely) create his own management style, but he applies what already exists.

Vision vs. objectives

The leader knows where he is and where he wants to go. He has a project, a long-term vision, and he effortlessly manages to inspire those around him to give their best to achieve this vision.

The manager focuses on achieving the objectives necessary to achieve a vision. He ensures that his team works effectively to achieve the objectives set within the time limits. To do this, he organizes, plans, and coordinates tasks, and he ensures that his team scrupulously follows the action plan previously defined.

Change vs. improvement

The leader is not afraid of change. On the contrary, he is constantly looking for innovation because he knows there is always room for improvement. For this, he does not hesitate to shake up habits and revolutionize the system in place.

The manager is content to follow the processes that are already in place and working perfectly, making sure to make some adjustments and improvements if necessary.

Risk-taking vs. risk control

In order to realize his vision, the leader does not hesitate to try new methods, to take still new paths. He does not fear failure because, for him, it is only a means of achieving success. Besides, Winston Churchill said: "Success is to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." 

For the manager, the best way to achieve his objectives is to avoid risks at all costs. It will make every effort to anticipate, minimize, control, and even eliminate them entirely.

Regular learning vs. learning

If he does not learn new things every day, the leader has the impression of regressing. Curious, he is interested in everything and constantly seeks to develop his skills to stay in tune with today's world, which is constantly evolving.

The manager prefers to reproduce the behaviors that have already proven their effectiveness. He builds on his achievements and is content to perfect the skills and knowledge he has already acquired.

Building relationships vs. building processes

The leader knows that to achieve his vision, he needs to surround himself. He works hard to build relationships of trust by showing what he is capable of in order to influence the people who will help him accomplish his project.

The manager ensures that effective processes, standards, and working rules are in place to achieve his objectives. It focuses more on the means and methods to be implemented without neglecting the human aspect.

Advice vs. lead

The leader encourages those who follow him to give their best. He pushes them to develop their potential, to learn new skills, but he never tells them what to do or how to do it.

The manager's role is to lead his team. It gives the directives to be followed, defines the responsibilities, and assigns the tasks to be accomplished to achieve the objectives set. He makes sure to facilitate the work of his employees by listening to them and responding to their needs, their doubts, and their questions.

Admirers’ vs. employees

The leader is generally surrounded by people who can be described as admirers. In addition to following him, they support him, help him achieve his vision, and strengthen his visibility and credibility.

The manager is surrounded by employees who follow his directives, who want to meet his expectations and satisfy his requests in order to achieve the objectives set.


To conclude, these two quotes sum up the difference between a leader and a manager.

"It's best to steer from the back and put the others in front, especially when things are going well. However, you have to go to the front in case of danger. This is how people will appreciate your Leadership. "Nelson Mandela, South African statesman

"A leader knows what to do; a manager only knows how to do it- Kenneth Adelmanleader vs manager, American diplomat

Author: Vicki Lezama

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