As we step into the working world and start plotting our career path, the following questions are some of the commonly asked ones. What is the difference between a manager and a leader? Are they mutually exclusive? Do professionals naturally have both qualities of a manager and a leader? Is a good manager automatically a good leader? Well, these questions are just the tip of the iceberg.
Many of us believe that leadership qualities come naturally, but that’s actually not the case. Leadership isn’t something you just “have” - in fact, it’s something you need to work on and perfect over time through continuous improvement and learning. That brings us back to the main question - what is the key difference between a manager and a leader? Let’s take a deep dive to find out.
Leaders Create Vision, Managers Create Goals
Leaders see the big picture and inspire people to turn dreams into reality. They motivate others in the organization and even community to reach for the stars. Generally, they have a clear vision of where they want their organizations to be in the future. With that, they tend to involve the team in creating the desired path and focus every effort in that direction.
On the other hand, managers focus on setting, measuring, and achieving goals. Managers build a strategic vision and break it down into a roadmap and short-term goals for the team to follow. Working very closely with the team, managers would build a better relationship and understanding with team members which helps set specific goals which can lead to higher performance by employees.
Leaders Challenge the Status Quo, Managers Maintain It
Leaders embrace change and innovation, constantly looking for a better and improved way to forward. By embracing change, employees become more adaptable and capable of handling hurdles and challenges at work. It allows employees to learn from first hand experience and continuously improve. Leaders also have a unique approach to problem-solving, always known as the ones who enjoy thinking outside the box. For example, leaders are more susceptible to drive projects for simplification by straight up having open discussions with their team to brainstorm for ideas.
Managers refine structures and processes to improve them. Managers have the authority to form and impose rules, guidelines, standards, processes, and other operating procedures. More often than not, a manager would devise a change based on their own evaluation and thought process, and then enforce it onto their employees to implement. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as most changes are set to increase overall efficiency and performance at work.
Leaders Are Creative, Managers Are Copycats
Leaders work to build their personal brand through creativity. They want the whole team to be involved in the process and to brainstorm new ideas together, so they can always encourage others to raise their opinions whenever there’s a better way of doing things. A leader also has immense knowledge of all the current trends, advancements, skill sets, and has clarity when it comes to purpose and vision. With this knowledge, leaders bring their team to greater heights through guidance every step of the way.
In contrast, managers mimic the competencies and behaviors of others who are doing well. They pick the best, replicate and improve from there. Managers also assign tasks with no discussion. They are someone who generally only maintains what is already established. A manager needs to watch the bottom line while controlling employees and workflow in the organization to prevent any chaos.
Leaders Take Risks, Managers Control Them
Leaders take risks and are not afraid of trying out new things even though there’s a chance they could fail. Leaders know that failing is not the end and it’s in fact the beginning for a new path to success. A leader is a person who sets the right pace and tempo for others to follow. They know what it takes to succeed and would proactively encourage and drive employees to strive and do their best.
Managers tend to focus their efforts and planning to minimize risk, most of the time not wanting to get out of their comfort zone. They are required by their job description to establish control over employees, which in turn helps to identify and develop the organization’s assets. Thus, it’s important for managers to understand their subordinates well in order to execute and perform their own job effectively.
Ultimately, managers and leaders are both important and when you find both traits in the same person, it’s like hitting a professional jackpot! The three important traits shared by all managers or leaders are communication, problem-solving and crisis management. Famously, life is all about balance. Hence, having the perfect balance between both can bring success in corporate life.
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