leader vs manager

Date: 20th August 2022

Leader vs Manager: The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager


Leadership isn’t about who can give orders and who follows them. It’s about:

  • Who can empower others to perform optimally

  • Who can inspire a team to achieve peak performance

  • Who can build trusting and collaborative relationships with team members. 


These are just some of the many ways in which a leader differs from a manager. While both positions require similar skills, leaders possess an additional range of personal attributes that distinguishes them from their managerial counterparts. If you aspire to become a successful leader, there are many things you need to know – especially if you’ve been mistakenly identifying yourself as a manager. 


The truth is that managers and leaders have very different roles in any organization. Here is everything you need to know about the difference between being a manager vs. leader:


Leader vs Manager: What Is A Manager?


A manager’s primary focus is on the results of a team or organization. They typically oversee a team (which may be a department, a division or even an entire company) and make sure that they reach their goals. A manager may also be responsible for hiring, firing and managing the performance of employees. Managers typically have more control over their employees’ work schedules, deadlines and other aspects of their daily lives. While the role of the manager is most effective in the short-term, leaders are concerned with the long-term vision and growth of a team or organization.


At its core, leading is about maximizing human potential. Leaders focus on inspiring and motivating people to do their best work. They help develop the skills of their team members so that they can solve problems independently. Leaders tend to be more strategic in nature, looking at the “bigger picture” and analyzing data from various sources to identify trends and make decisions. All of these things are important to the role of a manager, but the role of the leader is more expansive. 


Leader vs Manager: What Is A Leader? 


A leader’s primary concern is people, not numbers. The leader’s focus is on building relationships, inspiring followers to perform their best and helping others find their “true selves.” A leader is much more than a manager; they are also an architect, coach and mentor. Leaders are concerned with more than just the performance of their team; they also seek to grow their people. They help team members discover and reach their full potential. Leaders focus on the long-term goals of an organization and inspire others to unite behind a common cause. Leaders are also concerned with strategy, but they go one step further and make connections between short- and long-term goals. They help their organization see the big picture and make decisions that affect the greater good. 


The Key Difference Between a Manager and Leader 


  • Managers are focused on results (and meeting deadlines). Leaders are concerned about the value that people bring to the organization. 

  • While a manager cares about whether the team hits their goals, a leader cares about how the team members go about achieving those goals. Leaders are focused on the value that each team member brings to the organization. They care about how their employees perform, but they also want to know why they do what they do. 

  • The difference between a manager and leader can be boiled down to one thing: the way they approach their relationships with their people. A manager is primarily focused on tasks and getting things done. The leader, on the other hand, is more interested in who they get things done with. Managers care about meeting deadlines and getting results; leaders care about inspiring others to achieve their full potential. 


Leader vs Manager: 6 Behaviors of Effective Leaders 


  • They inspire others to perform their best: Leaders inspire others to perform their best by showing them how their work matters. Great leaders motivate their team members by connecting their daily tasks with the overall vision of the company. They help their team members discover the significance of their work – and inspire them to excel.

  • They are authentic: Effective leaders are authentic and transparent. They do not pretend to be someone they are not. They are genuine in their communications with team members, and they invite others to be genuine with them. Leaders who are inauthentic or manipulative can only lead for so long before their employees see through their facade.

  • They develop their team members: A great leader is not only concerned with the results their team members achieve; they are also interested in growing their skill sets. The best leaders are mentors who help their employees improve their knowledge, skills and abilities. This enables their team members to solve problems on their own and become productive and valuable assets to the company

  • They focus on the “bigger picture”: Great leaders are proactive. They are not reactive or impulsive; they are thoughtful and strategic. They think about the future and how their decisions today will affect their organization’s goals tomorrow. A leader is aware of what is happening throughout the organization and has a plan for addressing problems and capitalizing on opportunities. 

  • They build trusting and collaborative relationships with team members: There are many attributes that make a great leader, but perhaps the most important is the ability to build trust. Trusting relationships with team members enable leaders to collaborate with them to find creative solutions to problems, solve challenging tasks and deliver exceptional results.

  • They have a vision and strategy for the organization: The best leaders have a vision for the future of their organization. They know the type of company they want to be and they have a strategic plan for leading their organization to achieve that goal. 


Leader vs Manager: How To Be An Effective Leader 


  • Be a “servant leader”, not a “dictatorial leader”: The best leaders lead from behind. They help their team members succeed, provide them with the resources they need to get their work done and encourage them to find new ways to grow and improve. They are not authoritarian figures who demand that others obey their every command. Instead, they serve as a support system for their team members and help them succeed. 

  • Be a “visionary leader”, not a “process leader”: A visionary leader has a long-term perspective and knows how the work they do today will affect their team members and organization tomorrow. Whereas a process leader is more concerned with the daily tasks, a visionary leader has a bigger picture view of how those daily tasks fit into the broader goals of the organization. 

  • Be a “relationship builder”, not an “execution leader”: Real leaders are relationship builders. Instead of focusing solely on the execution of tasks, they invest time in developing their relationships with team members – both individually and as a team. Relationship building is the key to effective execution and success. 




The most successful organizations are those that have leaders at the helm. While managers are great at getting things done, leaders inspire others to reach their full potential. Leaders inspire others to do their best work, solve difficult problems and find creative solutions to challenging issues. They help their team members grow as individuals and feel more connected to their team. If you aspire to become a successful leader, there are many things you need to know – especially if you’ve been mistakenly identifying yourself as a manager. The difference between being a manager vs. leader is significant, and it comes down to one thing: how you approach your relationships with your team members. Be authentic, be a servant leader, focus on the “bigger picture” and build trusting relationships with your team members – and you’re well on your way to becoming an effective leader.

Find out more about Ken Blanchard courses to elevate your leadership skills.

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