Five Differences between Leaders and Managers

Despite the terms used interchangeably, there are fundamental differences between leaders and managers. A good manager may not necessarily be a good leader. Similarly, a good leader may not operate in a managerial role. Not everyone possesses leadership qualities. However, most career progression requires fulfilling the role of a supervisor or manager. You may join an entry-level position, but eventually, you must lead or manage teams and departments as you progress.

The good news is that you can learn the art of leadership and act as a leader without being a manager. Leadership traits are among employers’ top most sought-after qualities, with 83% of companies believing that developing leaders is crucial to success. People with leadership qualities make excellent initiators and work well within a team. Someone with good leadership skills can also make a good manager. They will be able to pass on the company’s vision to the team members while inspiring and motivating them. 

Let us look at some significant differences between managers and leaders.

Leaders are Visionary, Whereas Managers are Goal-Oriented

Leaders can communicate their vision throughout the organization. They give employees purpose and inspire them to work on something bigger than themselves. On the other hand, managers set goals, control the outcome, and measure the goal attainment. 

Both qualities are equally important. It is important to set tangible and attainable goals as a manager while ensuring everyone has a clear idea of the company’s direction in line with the leader’s vision. If you wish to become a leader with an online MBA, there are many programs that can hone your management and leadership skills, so you can add maximum value to your organization in the future. 

A better way to be a good manager and a leader is to set realistic and measurable goals and then use them to create a vision for the company. For example, if your goal is to boost sales for the quarter to turn a profit, then inspire the salespeople to sell ideas and convenience instead of focusing simply on products and services alone. Similarly, you can brainstorm a creative vision with your sales team to get the company out of a sales slump.

Leaders are Catalysts of Change, While Managers Maintain Status Quo

With good leaders, change is inevitable. Creative visionaries are proud disruptors, and innovations are always on their agenda. They rarely do things the same way if a different approach will solve the problems better. It means they do not hesitate to take risks and openly embrace new ideas.

Managers, on the other hand, work towards sustaining the system as it is. They are more comfortable with bureaucracy and abide by the stated rules. They also adopt best industry practices to play it safe and do what already works. It helps bring structure to the workflow and keep operations steady. 

Managers usually follow a leader’s vision and may be hesitant to change because the change would mean they would have to step out of their comfort zone. However, it would be easier for them to adopt the changes slowly and steadily, as they need time to adjust. 

Leaders Grow Continuously, while Managers Follow Certain Ways

A leader stops being a leader the day they stop learning and growing. Good leaders learn something new every day. They do not hesitate to listen to their employees and always keep an open mind. In contrast, managers follow certain ways. 

Leaders believe they need to evolve continuously in an ever-changing business and economic environment and stay updated with the daily changes that may affect the business. Meanwhile, managers believe in perfecting relevant skills and adopting proven behaviours.

Leaders quickly consider everything and take the necessary action. Their personal growth is in determining how they tackle the changing business environment. 

Leaders think Long-Term, Whereas Managers think Short-Term

Effective leaders are rarely ever shortsighted. They tend to focus on the bigger picture and pay close attention to detail. Managers, on the other hand, focus on achieving short-term goals. For example, their goal could be sustaining the business for the next month, quarter or year.

A leader would think about the organization’s value in the eyes of the stakeholders and the kind of legacy or impact it would leave for the next generation. It is this perception that shapes the organization’s future image. A leader thinks about the long-term aspects of the organization and its employees. All the subsequent decisions that a leader makes revolves around this far-sighted approach. In many ways, it is one of the vital elements for the success of any organization. 

Leaders are Unique, while Managers are more Conventional

Leaders are eager to establish their brand and be themselves. Their uniqueness sets them apart from the crowd. Their opinions may contrast well with the others. However, they would not hesitate to voice them openly. They remain transparent and authentic in whatever they do. 

Meanwhile, managers adopt learned behaviours and act in a way that they consider acceptable. Managers might convey to their seniors what they want to hear rather than tabling unique ideas and approaches. 


There are significant differences between managers and leaders that set them apart. Leaders are creative visionaries, while managers are goal-oriented. Leaders inspire change while managers work towards maintaining the status quo. Leaders believe in continuous growth and improvement, while managers stick to certain ways. It is what makes leaders long-term visionaries, while managers are more engaged in immediate tasks. Lastly, leaders are unique, while managers are more conventional in their approach. However, this does not mean you cannot have both traits at the same time, as they are not mutually exclusive. A common quality in leaders and managers is that they both are focused on building strong relationships as well as improving the systems and processes of their respective organizations.