When you become a “manager” you’re expected to perform a role that teeters on being a hybrid between leadership and general management. It’s possible to be a manager without being a leader – and it’s possible to be a leader without being a manager. In this article we’re going to look at the intricacies of leadership versus management, and how those people promoted into managerial roles today are expected to be a leader just as much as they are a manager.

The key differences

Perhaps the main difference between a manager and leader is the fact that a manager is someone who looks at targets and goals first and how they’re going to properly implement them second – whereas a leader is someone who looks at people first then decides how to assemble their team to best achieve those targets and goals.

Another key difference is that a manager does what they’re told, in the way they’re told to do so. Leaders on the other hand set higher targets and think outside of the box – constantly looking for ways to refine or improve existing processes for the good of the business. One more characteristic that contrasts is that managers rule based on authority and control – leaders find that people trust them – colleagues and subordinates follow them.

Why does it all matter anyway?

It’s important that you look at the key differences between being a manager and a leader – you then need to formulate some sort of plan as to how you can become an effective hybrid of the two. Being a manager involves laying down someone else’s interpretation of rules – being a leader involves flouting those rules for the good of the business and seeking improvements to them.

People look to their managers, not just to assign them a task, but to define for them a purpose.”

There’s a fine line to be struck between leading a team and managing a team. There’s no use being an all out leader when working for someone else’s business, you simply won’t get the freedom that you need to lead from the front and implement every rule change as you’d like. Being a straight up manager won’t work either – if the individuals on your team don’t trust you as a leader they won’t work as hard as they probably can for you. Being a modern day manager is about bringing the best of both worlds together.

The following quote taken from the Wall Street Journal explains the shift in stance from a managerial style to a leadership style in the workplace, as well as key reasons for it:

“Perhaps there was a time when the calling of the manager and that of the leader could be separated. A foreman in an industrial-era factory probably didn’t have to give much thought to what he was producing or to the people who were producing it. His or her job was to follow orders, organize the work, assign the right people to the necessary tasks, coordinate the results, and ensure the job got done as ordered. The focus was on efficiency.

But in the new economy, where value comes increasingly from the knowledge of people, and where workers are no longer undifferentiated cogs in an industrial machine, management and leadership are not easily separated. People look to their managers, not just to assign them a task, but to define for them a purpose. And managers must organize workers, not just to maximize efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.”

Going forward it’s important that you recognise the difference between being a manager and a leader – and it’s important that you aim to be both a manager and a leader, not just one or the other. Your job title might be “manager”, but if you’re going to get the most out of your employees and hit the targets you’re set, you’ll need to operate on the fault line between manager and leader.