How is a Leader different from Manager?

Leadership vs Management

Often, we hear these two words, Leadership and Management at our workplace. Sometimes these two words are used so frequently and interchangeably that they dilute the actual difference between Leadership and Management. Though they have different definitions and used for their intended purposes, but in present economy, there is very thin lining between these two concepts in practical sense. In reality, Leadership and Management go hand in hand without separation. Hence so-called phenomenon of Leadership Management finds its origin. Before reading further, take a moment & ask yourself - What is leadership to you? How is leadership different from management? Is there any connection between leadership and management? 

We’ll uncover most of the aspects of a good leader & a good manager in this article and try to understand - what's leadership; and the relation between Leadership & management.

Who is a leader?

Let’s first understand, who is a leader. Leaders have ingrained traits of demonstrating their leadership skills. Some people are known as born leader. Leaders have the merit to influence others and make fans. A leader turns others into his or her followers and role model. Why? What’s so different is there in a good leader, which makes him or her a differentiator? Good leaders indeed are people, who think differently and do the things differently.  

Difference between management and leadership

Let’s unveil the difference between management and leadership. How do these two terms differ as per their definitions?

What is management?

Management is an art of getting things done through people, which comprises of activities like - planning, organizing, staffing, delegating, controlling and coordinating. So, with good management skills, one can get things done by managing the resources in efficient way. Management is focused on optimizing the resources with the realization of high efficiency.

What is leadership?

On the contrary, leadership as we already discussed, influences the people. Leadership takes the followers along. Leadership sets the direction for people or group of people to achieve a common goal. With a good vision in place, leadership guides and handholds followers to trace the path in order to achieve this vision and encourage them with the purpose to achieve it.

Lets define leader; who is the leader?

  • Leaders influence the people

  • Leaders set long term vision

  • Leaders act as change agents and lead to big transformations in systems and processes

  • They are original in their working style 

  • Leaders carry out innovations

  • They follow proactive strategic steps

  • They create a foundation of principles and guidelines

  • They take risks

Now, lets define manager; what do managers do?

  • Managers command the people

  • Managers focus on short term goals to achieve long term visions

  • Managers maintain the status quo by working on to improve the efficiency of existing systems and processes

  • Managers mimic the leadership styles of their peers

  • They administer the existing practices

  • They are reactive in nature

  • They focus on adhering to policies and procedures

  • They control risks

Key differences between a leader and manager

Having understood about the nature of work of a Leader and a Manager, let’s see how are they different from one another:







Being leader is a skill or trait to develop a level of trust among followers.

Being manager is an art to get things done systematically with the use of control and co ordination.


Leaders have long-term focus and perspective.

Managers have short-term focus on managing the short term objectives to eventually target at long term vision set by leaders.


Leaders are change agents. They take risks and can lead to big breathtaking transformations.

Managers maintain the status quo and usually averse to taking risks directly by themselves; rather they try to control any probable risk.


Leaders always walk the talk. They’ve their own style of leadership and create their followers

Managers imitate their role models or peers and copy their style to manage the work and people.

Level of impact on people

Leaders influence the people around them

Managers command to get things done from people around them.


Leaders set principles and guidelines for themselves and for their followers

Managers maintain systems & procedures and ensure everyone follows these predefined policies and procedures.

Table 1: Leader vs Manager

Now, we understand, what is the difference between managing and leading. But, surprisingly, these two concepts are inseparable in current scenario. The reality is, a good manager should be a good leader as well and vice versa. 

Is a good manager automatically a good leader?

The answer is Yes. To be a successful entrepreneur or top executive, one has to be a good leader and a good manager both.

Let’s understand the common factors between a leader and a manager for better clarity:

Purpose: Both the leaders and managers have a common purpose to make people work for them. So, being a manager doesn’t limit anyone only to maximize the efficiency of his or her subordinates just by commanding them – Rather today’s managers are expected to mentor the subordinates, to nurture them, develop their talent, handhold them whenever required and recognize them for the values they add to the system.

Inspiration: Managers with their good leadership style can inspire their sub ordinates and bring a sense of mutual understanding. This way, managers can increase the productivity of their subordinates and earn the respect from them

Setting Values: Manager follows set policies & procedures and ensure others to follow the same too. But if any policy or procedure is creating a detrimental impact on the system or culture of the organization, being a good manager, he/ she should take leadership role and should advocate for policy or procedure review and/ or revision to protect organizational values and culture.

Management Vs Leadership in present scenario

Now ask yourself, can someone who is a leader not be a manager?

As, already mentioned, leaders have their own original style. They carve the path for their people to follow. They put forward a vision and purpose to the people – for what people follow the leaders. A leader builds trust among people, which gives confidence to his followers that they all have common interests, which have the defined purpose. A leader enlightens these common interests by demonstrating his principles and the attitude of “Walk the Talk”. Hence, leaders earn respect and are known for their values & principles. Good leaders become role model for the followers. But, in today’s complex scenario, unlike conventional leadership style – where leaders used to follow a fixed pattern of their leadership style to deal with any situation – is not adequate enough to attribute them as a good manager. Hence, its very important to understand – “How is a leader? What leadership style does he own? Whether he follows traditional fixed leadership pattern without giving due consideration to different situations.” - before assuming him as a good manager by default. To be a good manager, leaders must follow situational leadership style. As a good leader and a good manager, sometimes you may have to be participative when dealing with the people at one level, while at some other level you may have to be Laissez-Faire; sometimes you may have to be transactional, while other times you may have to demonstrate transformational leadership style. 

Management in leadership role:

Why is leadership important in management?

Despite of differences in leadership and management, in practical they go hand in hand. Leadership becomes very important, when it comes to good management style. An effective management should demonstrate leadership skills as well.  As, we are witnessing the emergence of knowledge workers in current economy. People are more knowledgeable and mature than they were before. They are more updated with the trends & technology; they try to maximize their knowledge base by updating themselves in the best possible ways; they deal with lots of data in profession and make them meaningful information for study; they are no more the cogs, who perform regular routine activities in silence as instructed by management. People are no more willing to follow the command without any vision or purpose. Today’s people want to know a well-defined purpose of work before carrying out any work. They are not easy to tackle with traditional management approaches. Hence, management requires having good leadership tactics. With good leadership, a manager can tactfully manage and lead the people and make them more productive by maximizing their efficiency.


In a nutshell, management vs leadership – both are complementary to each other. Management can’t stand alone, if it is not supported by good leadership skill. Unlike conventional managers, today’s managers are expected to deal with variety of people, under variety of situations. So, they are required to take up all the challenges – be it internal, or external - and demonstrate the leader in them. Also, a leader should demonstrate situation based leadership style to be a good manager at work.

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Ankit Rastogi