The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager and Why it’s Important to Be Both

It’s a common misconception that leaders and managers are interchangeable, but the reality is that the two roles couldn’t be more different from each other!

If your job includes directing a team of people, then it’s to your advantage to not only understand the difference between a manager and a leader, but also why you need to be both.

Let’s delve into the roles of both and how they affect your business:

When to be a Leader  

Most people love the idea of leadership because everyone loves a good leader! Why else are there so many superhero movies?

If you have a following of people who are behind your vision, then you are a leader. (In fact, you can be a leader without ever being a manager.)

But leadership is a lot harder than donning a star-spangled jumpsuit and calling yourself Captain America.

In order to be a good leader, you need to:

Inspire and Influence

Leaders need a high level of emotional intelligence in order to truly understand their team members and what motivates them. Leaders also need to bring their own passion to the business to inspire their followers.

According to the experts at Bain & Company, there are 33 other attributes that inspire your employees, including humility, empathy, vision, recognition, integrity, and optimism.

© Bain & Company

Create Connections

As a leader, you need to connect with your team and help them connect with each other. A good leader is able to identify points of contention within the group, which requires paying attention to subtleties in the way your team interacts with each other (and with you.)

As with so many things, it comes down to clear and frequent communication.

Of course, this means you need to spend time on the floor with your team instead of in your office. If your team works remotely, host weekly or monthly Zoom meetings for progress updates or brainstorming sessions.

Empower the Team

Leaders give their team a voice and an outlet to be heard. Whether it’s giving them a vote in a company decision or asking for their feedback on a new procedure, having your team weigh in with their ideas from time to time will make them feel more a part of the business.

Empowering your team also means encouraging them to reach their own professional goals. Be sure to check in with them on a regular basis to ask how you can help!

Keep Learning and Listening

Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from your employees! So listen to your team’s feedback and implement some of their ideas whenever you can. Create an environment where everyone can learn from each other and you will grow together as a more cohesive unit.

Question the Status Quo

While processes and procedures are necessary to a successful business, be careful of falling into the trap of thinking that the old way of doing something is the best or only way. Always challenge the status quo and use outside-of-the-box thinking to find new opportunities for improvement.

When to be a Manager

While the term “leader” makes us think of the Avengers, then the term “manager” is more likely to summon visions of Bill Lumbergh from Office Space.  

But while management does encompass the more analytical and practical side of being the boss, it doesn’t mean you have to be a stuffy corporate killjoy with a penchant for TPS reports.

In fact, the manager’s role is crucial to the vitality of any business.

In order to be a good manager, you need to:

Implement Procedures and Processes

Just because you’ve discovered a better way to do things doesn’t mean the change is going to happen easily. Sometimes, new strategies require a lot of restructuring and organization on the manager’s part.

A manager needs to keep their sights on things like time management and costs, and how they affect the bottom line. Make use of SOPs and action plans with a scheduled timeline; they will help keep your team on the same page during any transitionary times in the business.

Enforce Procedures

Being a manager is a little like being a parent. When processes aren’t flowing properly, it’s a manager’s duty to find out why and then take the necessary remedial measures. Whether it’s speaking to someone about their workplace behavior or writing an employee up for a careless mistake, disciplining employees is never fun, but sometimes necessary.

The key to confronting with your team members with issues is to be clear it’s not personal and explain why it needed to be addressed. And always make sure reprimands are done in private and not in front of their colleagues.


Delegation is arguably the most critical part of running a successful team. Without proper delegation, you and your employees won’t work as effectively.

Learn to let go of the less important tasks that are taking up the majority of your day by training one of your team members on them. Have faith in your team that they can complete the tasks as well as you, but check in with them regularly to verify they are managing their new duties well.

It’s also important to factor each team member’s strengths and weaknesses when delegating tasks and match them with duties that either suit their abilities or help them grow.


Effective managers have metrics in place to keep track of what’s working, and what isn’t. Running daily or weekly reports on your team’s operations sounds boring, but analyzing and comparing that data is what helps you understand how your team is progressing and which processes need to be reevaluated to make things more efficient. It can also help you take more calculated risks when trying something new to grow the business.

Getting results has to come before your popularity.

Drive Results

A good manager always needs to focus on the big picture and do what is necessary to get the best results from their team. Sometimes this involves making hard decisions that don’t always go over well with the team.

This is the part of being a manager that many people struggle with because everyone wants to be liked! But getting results has to come before your popularity.


To quote businessman and author, Steven Covey, “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”

As different as managing and leading are, they complement, not conflict,  each other. They are two halves that create an effective and balanced boss.

Although it’s likely that you identify more with one than the other, think about how you can bring a little more of this balance to become a full-stack “managerial leader”. Because blending both the traits of a manager and leader could be what elevates you and your business above the competition in 2019!