Leadership versus Management:
Why Managers Do Not Always Make Effective Leaders

Leadership versus management - what's the difference you ask? Too often the two words are used interchangeably. However, there are many distinct differences between a manager and a leader.

Each requires very different personality traits and unique talents.

leadership versus management

You might wonder whether you are a manager, or if you qualify as a leader? The fact is that being great at management does not always equate to being a great leader.

As you discover the unique traits of leaders vs. managers you will gain insight into how you can use your skills to be most effective in whatever position you choose. Only through self-awareness can you begin to work on improving your skill-set. The result will be in your improved ability to make a significant impact and be more effective when dealing with others and running your team or business.

Understand that the descriptions provided here are generalizations on the managerial traits compared to leadership traits and we fully realize there are exceptions to the rule. 

So, as you review the comparisons of leadership versus management provided here ask yourself which category are you most comfortable and make career decisions based on what you hope to achieve in the future. 

In this article we take you through five key areas of leadership versus management.

Varying Styles |Attitudes on Goal Setting | Views on Relationships | Sense of Identity | What To Look For

#1 Styles of Leadership versus Management


Managers focus heavily on providing thoughtful rationale to their team and maintaining a level of control over the course of events; they tend to be effective problem-solvers.

Managers value their ability to focus and keep other people focused on progress to meeting their goals. They make great effort to ensure proper use of resources, creating efficient organization structures, and getting the most out of their people.

Managers are often asking the question, "What problems need to be solved? What tasks need to be accomplished? They are persistent, hard workers, smart, process-oriented, and truly care about their customers and employees.

Managers are "Do'ers" - they get things done. They get tasks accomplished and they take pride in knowing they've done a quality job, on time and within budget. Because of these unique traits, managers are a valuable human resource.

"No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it."

- Andrew Carnegie


When comparing leadership versus management, leaders are a much rarer breed. Leaders are more likely to be perceived as highly intelligent, but sometimes prefer to be a one-man show. Others may recognize that the leader marches to the beat of a different drummer - which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Leaders are highly self-disciplined, and as a result they are more effective at leading by example.

Leaders are not interested in achieving control of others because they are so confident in themselves. Leaders are constantly looking over the horizon. They are very effective at seeing around corners to anticipate what's coming next so they can effectively plan ahead and take advantage of future opportunities.

Leaders are creative, passionate, and willing to take well educated risks. In contract, taking risks is something managers have a much harder time with.

#2 Attitudes on Goals in Leadership versus Management


Managers demonstrate a more passive, sometimes even reluctant, attitude toward strategic goals. While they will establish clear goals for production and efficiency, they do so more because it is required by upper management, rather than out of a true desire to outpace the company's top competitors.

If the larger organization did not insist on goal setting as an annual ritual, managers would be less likely to make the investment. 


Leaders understand the true value of goal setting. They realize that today's goals, once achieved, will lead to higher goals the following year, and the year after that. Leaders value goal setting today for the value the process brings well into the future.

Even more importantly, leaders understand that the greatest value of goal setting is not that it makes the employee produce more. The greatest of establishing clear goals is that it forces each employee to become their best self in the process. The more effort employees are making to strive to reach greater heights, the more confidence and valuable they will become in the process.

"As a leader, I am tough on myself and I raise the standard for everybody. However, I am very caring because I want people to excel at what they are doing so that they can aspire to be me in the future."

- Indra Nooyi

#3 Relationships In Leadership versus Management


Managers enjoy working as part of a team. They value activities that bring their people closer together, but they also tend to maintain a strong and clear line between themselves and their team members.

Managers understand the value of collaboration between their group, but they often maintain a lower level of emotional involvement in the relationships they have -  whether inside or outside the work environment.

Managers will work diligently to address and reconcile differences. They actively seek to compromise in order to get back on track and accomplish their goal. Unfortunately, because they are so willing to compromise and cringe at the thought of being viewed in a negative light, managers run the risk of being perceived by others as self-absorbed, detached, or even uncaring.

"The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant"

- Max DePree


Leaders maintain a high level of self-awareness. The best leaders are those who actually study leadership. They work hard to educate themselves about a wide variety of subjects.

Leaders tend to be very perceptive. They actively observe others and quickly assess how they can leverage relationships to create a win-win scenario.

Leaders identify what will motivate other people and work to leverage the energy and enthusiasm of others in order to achieve their objectives. In the process, they are viewed as being caring, thoughtful, smart, funny and someone who others aspire to associate with.

Leaders are self-confident and they understand that they can only win if the team wins. Therefore, when something goes wrong, they are quick to take responsibility as the leader. When things go right, they instinctively shine the light on the team members that made it happen. As a result, they earn credibility and respect as the team leader. 

#4 Sense of Identity In Leadership versus Management


A person's sense of identity of is often greatly influenced by their past. Managers tend to come from fairly regular, calm and well adjusted households. Often with relatively strict parents who emphasize rules and consistency in completing chores and meeting expectations.

Managers report they have a strong sense of community and they place high value on maintaining a peaceful home life They place tremendous emphasis on maintaining harmony, both on and off the job.

Managers see themselves as responsible for maintaining order for the benefit of the larger constituency. They demonstrate a desire to development processes which focus on the greater good, protecting less fortunate people from whatever it is they are lacking.

There is a strong difference here when looking at leadership versus management. This socialization process prepares managers to support their institution and to maintain a clear balance of social relations in the workplace. 


Leaders are more likely to have experienced a much harder time of it during their childhood, and even well into their young adulthood. Their lives are often marked by a pattern of struggle and adversity, which has helped to shape them into a fighter, someone who is unwilling to yield in the face of fear or challenge.

Just like Managers, Leaders come from every ethnic and economic background. 

Leader actively seek to find some sense of order. Leaders are less likely to take anything for granted and are not satisfied with the status-quo. In short, leaders are "street smart". They report that their self awareness comes along with a feeling of profound separateness.

While leaders may work in small or larger companies, they feel as if they don't quite belong to the organization, nor do they want to belong. They highly value the work they accomplish professionally, as well as their achievements on their personal goals. They are less likely to derive value from joining clubs, or by achieving other indicators of social identity.


"A leader is the one who can outline the broad vision and the direction, and say here’s where we are going to go, here’s why we need to go there, and here’s how we are going to get there. A manager is the one who actually gets up under the hood and tunes the carburetor."

- Mike Huckabee

#5 What To Look For In Leadership versus Management

You can see, managers and leaders possess very different strengths and weaknesses, and there is tremendous value in both types of people. Just because you fall into the strong manager category doesn't mean you are less important than a strong leader. Both types are extremely valuable, but each has a unique role in an organization.

Managers are very good at maximizing output from specified tasks. They maintain a strong level of stability and order to the organization. However, they are not always as effective at seeing around the corner; identifying new trends or upcoming challenges; or preparing the organization for substantial change.

In contrast, leaders tend to be highly effective at rousing their team members; raising their expectations and taking them in new directions that they would never envision themselves going.

It's been proven over time that highly effective leaders require strong mentoring relationships. Most all great leaders can point to a mentor, or someone whom they have adopted as their mentor by reading their books or listening to their tapes; someone who inspired them and laid the foundation for their future achievements. Mentoring is a primary distinction between leadership versus management.

If you think you are a leader, then by all means surround yourself with other leaders and learn from them while being generous to those same people. Consider creating a mastermind group where each member contributes their knowledge and experience for the benefit of all participants. Many mastermind groups adopt the phrase, "Iron sharpens iron", which means the more you push each other, the better you all will become.

The more you develop yourself as an effective manager or leader, the greater the rewards will be both inside and outside the workplace. So what do you aspire to improve in? How do you see yourself when comparing leadership versus management?

The choice of developing yourself into a leadership or management role can be profound, and both roles are highly valuable to any organization.

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