The Difference Between Leaders and Managers

John Krautzel
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Every business needs both leaders and managers to succeed. However, as much as people might like to believe in the charismatic and visionary leader who can also manage the smallest details of a task, top-notch management skills and groundbreaking leadership rarely exist within the same person. Understanding the difference between leaders and managers, as well as encouraging excellent managers to take on the role of leadership, is vital to business in this modern age.

The Differences Between Managers and Leaders

Management skills are crucial for the survival of any business, but managers alone do not move a business forward. A true leader is an innovator who has a vision for the future and the ability to communicate that vision to those who execute it. Leaders question why things have to be done the way they have always been done, opening the door for original solutions. Because of their unique perspective and constant questioning of the status quo, visionary leaders create value for a company. That value, however, comes with a very real downside: while creating value, leaders also take big risks that sometimes put the future of the business in danger.

Managers, on the other hand, are not typically concerned with big-picture questions regarding the future. Instead, they use their finely honed management skills to deal with today's tasks, get projects completed well and on time, and keep employees focused and organized. Good managers always have an eye on the bottom line and make sure tasks get done efficiently.

Why Even Great Managers Need Leadership Skills

In today's competitive marketplace, being a great manager is no longer enough. Managers should no longer be content with their short-term management skills of organization and coordination, no matter how excellent those skills are.

Part of being a manager today is inspiring a workforce, which has a greater tendency toward turnover than ever before. Setting an example for employees and inspiring them to bring their own creativity and ideas to the job are leadership qualities that every manager needs to learn. One of the greatest difficulties managers often face in making this transition is learning to embrace risk. Management has traditionally been the force that keeps visionaries from running off the rails, so learning to embrace some risk can be tough, even for those with incredible management skills.

As a first step in embracing risk, managers should experiment with giving employees more freedom on the job, opening up ways in which workers can control their own productivity and helping them catch the vision of finding ways to add value to the company rather than just plowing through a day's work. Managers who help employees to develop their own talents and see a greater purpose are well on their way to stepping across the line from management to leadership.

Great management skills and visionary leadership must work hand in hand to keep a business growing. When a manager becomes a true leader, every employee in the company becomes empowered.

Photo courtesy of pakorn at


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