Building Great Leaders

Respect: The Surprising Difference Between Managers and Leaders

Among the thousands of books, articles, and diatribes written about overseeing employees usually comes the inevitable comparison of managers versus leaders. Usually, it’s the leaders who come out on top: Leaders are the ones depicted as revolutionary trailblazers inspiring others, while managers are the ones cracking whips and counting pennies.

But when it comes to successfully running a business or educating employees, it shouldn’t be a matter of leaders versus managers, but managers working with leaders. Sure, leaders score the lion’s share of respect when it comes to talent management, but without managers, leaders might not be able to lead as effectively. Understanding the key differences between leaders and managers gives you a better idea of their symbiotic connection–and how both are crucial to success.

Lead or Be Led

Leaderships is often seen as the gold standard for management style, but it can often be a case of comparing apples to oranges. Key differences between leaders and managers make them equally as important, but vastly different in their roles at work.

A manager’s number one priority is typically capital. It might be financial, human, or even time management, but a manager is constantly looking for the best value and ROI. That means taking on the responsibility to execute tasks and projects in a highly tactical way. By scheduling time, tallying numbers, and strategically placing human capital where it is most likely to yield a return, managers follow metrics and moving parts.

Now, contrast a manager’s role to that of a leader: Leaders are less concerned with metrics and more concerned with team members as individual factors to success. A good leader knows his or her team’s strengths and are interested in coaching aptitude and stimulating colleagues to reaching full potential. Where managers are concerned with capital, leaders are concerned with people; where managers count value, leaders create value. As connectors, leaders take a manager’s strategic vision and piece together the moving parts for the best chance at success.

The Age-Old Question

It’s not a matter of which management style is better, but rather putting the right people in the right positions for success. If you have someone who is highly strategic and analytical, for example, management is a better avenue. An employee less concerned with measurement and more concerned with potential would make for a better team leader. Both have their place in a chain of command and both contribute to a well-rounded team.

It’s possible that someone is both an astute manager and a motivational leader, but it’s unicorn-rare. Most individuals excel at one or the other; and that’s OK. Neither leaders nor managers are superior to other management tactics. Both can be nurtured and applied to the benefit of an entire organization. While the managers keep everyone on track, the leaders encourage employees to reach for the impossible.