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Differences between Managers and Leaders

An important difference but the two work in tandem…

“Leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. Each has its own function and characteristic activities. Both are necessary for success in an increasingly complex and volatile business environment…strong leadership with weak management is no better, and is sometimes actually worse, than the reverse. The real challenge is to combine strong leadership and strong management and use each to balance the other.”
— John Kotter, Management/Leadership Author and Professor of Organizational Behavior, Harvard Business School

Traits of Managers versus Leaders

A helpful way to look at the difference between management and leadership is to look at actionable words or verbs that often separate the two.   Below are some typical words that can be associated with each.


  • Short-term focus
  • Objectives
  • Controls
  • Tracks
  • Organizes
  • Follow the rules
  • Authority
  • Reactive
  • Transactional
  • Who did it?


  • Long-term focus
  • Vision
  • Unleashes passion in others
  • Creates change environment
  • Creates safe environment
  • Colors off the page
  • Charismatic
  • Pro-active
  • Relationship driven
  • Why not?

Again, in a well organized world both managers and leaders are necessary.  Sometimes you can move from manager to leader or from leader to manager.  A Success Habit– in most cases-is to remain in one place or the other for the majority of your time.

Management versus Leadership – Part Two

Do you want things done right?   Or do you want to do the right things?     The difference in these two approaches is often the difference between a manager and a leader.

A manager is often concerned with the work habits/work choices/work strategy of her subordinates and company.  For example:

Management versus Leadership – Part One

A quick glance at the difference…

man·ag·er n.
One who handles, controls, or directs, especially:
One who directs a business or other enterprise.
One who controls resources and expenditures, as of a household.

Leader: According to, “A simple definition of leadership is that leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal. Put even more simply, the leader is the inspiration and director of the action. He or she is the person in the group that possesses the combination of personality and skills that makes others want to follow his or her direction.”

Another way to look at the difference is to say:

  • Managers have subordinates
  • Leaders have followers

Both management and leadership are important.  Each level plays an important role in getting things done.  Managers focus primarily on processes whereas leaders usually focus on people.

In future posts we will look more closely at specific traits and characteristics that set managers and leaders apart.  Knowledge of the difference traits can be a Success Habit that helps set you apart!

Stages of Leadership – Emotional Intelligence

Stage Four of Four

The top developmental skill for effective leadership is a high level of emotional intelligence.  This skill is developed and strengthened through quiet and regular reflection.  Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand emotions, particularly one’s own emotions.  “Know thyself”, proclaims the ancient Greek aphorism.

Stages of Leadership – The Gift of Influence

Stage Three of Four

Excellent leaders seem to have a natural ability to receive automatic buy-in from others.   This gift of “influence” is often a combination of integrity plus charisma.  When trust and admiration are in place, it is natural for others to want to follow a person or business.   This is a natural form of branding.

Stages of Leadership: Applicability and Connectivity

Stage Two of Four

All businesses have a need for interconnectedness.  Executives have a need to understand how various business processes are inter-related.  In addition to inter-relatedness inside the processes of the company itself, executives must be able to relate content, strategy, and reasoning with regard to global interactions, technological advances, societal expectations, as well as politics.

Stages of Leadership: Functional Competence

Stage One of Four

There are many facets of good leadership but hard skills, knowledge, and competency are at the base of the model.    A good leader should have a strong knowledge base of the industry and at least a broad-based knowledge of financials, investments, economics, and accounting as well as a basic understanding of human resource principles.

This is not to say that a CEO or senior official should know everything in terms of the operations of a company or even in each specific discipline.   However, one should at least know “what one does not know”.  In other words, know enough about the importance of accounting, finance, IT, or human resources that you know you will need to have an expert in the top seats of these divisions.

If the company is a service provider, the top officer should know who the customers are, who the prospective customers are, who the future customers will be, and what type of pain they are experiencing today as well as what they face tomorrow.   A service industry provides “service”.   So knowing what the customer needs to make his or her life easier is important for a top official.

If the company is a manufacturer, the top officer should have a strong understanding of the industry as well as past, present, and future trends.   Safety issues in the industry?   Then this must be understood and respected as well by the top officer.

Basic accounting, general ledger knowledge, as well as investment strategy are also important skills to have.   Of course there will likely be a CFO on board as well as a Chief Investment Officer, but the CEO needs a basic understanding of each of these disciplines in order to make certain that the people in these seats know their responsibilities as well as their limits, scope, and the risks their decisions hold.

In future posts we will look at additional facets of strong leadership that are important in forming success habits.

The Four Stages of Leadership

There are many facets of management.   A good manager must also possess a strong leadership base.

The Four Stages of Leadership:

1.     Functional Competence

2.     Applicability

3.     Positive influence of others

4.     Emotional Intelligence

In order to progress through successful careers, managers –becoming- leaders must master and live these four stages of leadership.  To skip any of the four stages or to forget the lessons learned there can cause a career to stall or derail.

In later posts we will look at these four success habits in more depth.