Difference Between A Leader And A Manager: Essential Points

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 13 December 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

People often assume that leaders and managers are synonymous terms in the business world. Although they share some characteristics, the two roles have several significant differences. By understanding how leaders and managers differ, you can decide if a leadership or managerial position may suit you and make crucial behavioural changes to achieve your goal. In this article, we compare leaders and managers and discover the difference between a leader and a manager, understand their traits and review types of leaders and managers.

What Is The Difference Between A Leader And A Manager?

To understand the difference between a leader and a manager, consider the following factors:

1. Approach to the future

Leaders think in the long term. They develop a vision of future possibilities and are able to convince people about the feasibility of their ideas. They can inspire people to expand their thinking, become more innovative and take steps to accomplish something big. Along with considering the difference individuals can make, they understand how to harness high-functioning teams to cooperate and get more work done.

Managers are more concerned about getting work done in the short-term. They know how to set realistic work goals and make specific plans to achieve them. They attempt to control and influence the work environment, assign tasks to different employees, provide them with necessary resources and assistance and follow up on how they are doing. The managers measure the work progress, take note of the milestones they reach and may make changes to achieve the set goals faster.

Related: Top Qualities Of An Outstanding Leader

2. Ability to influence

Leaders are known for their strong ability to influence people and affect their behaviours. With this ability, they are able to lead people into undertaking and accomplishing projects that can advance the business and financial interests of their organisation. To do this, they are willing to disrupt the existing system, change traditional work patterns and find and adopt new methods to get the necessary work done.

Managers work within the rules and regulations of existing systems and do not attempt to deviate from them. They may refine existing work processes to make them more viable. They plan and organise work, assign or hire qualified staff for this work, direct the work, monitor its progress and control its outcome.

Related: Management Skills: Definition And Examples

3. Originality of vision

Leaders know what they want, are willing to explore their unique vision and do not mind taking a different course from everyone. By standing up for what they believe, they are able to create a unique and authentic personal brand. Their confidence and willingness to take risks can attract and influence people and increase the profitability of their business concerns.

The focus of managers is on being competent and rule-abiding. They take behavioural and work cues from their management training and other management professionals. When they lead teams, they follow established leadership patterns and do not attempt to develop new paths.

Related: Traits Of An Effective Team Leader

4. Being innovative

Leaders are concerned with innovating existing processes and finding new ways that might work even better in the future. They scrutinise completed projects to understand what they could have done differently and use the information to make future improvements. They are curious about many things and constantly attempt to increase their knowledge. They are willing to disrupt existing processes, take calculated risks, deal with failures and embrace change. Their innovations can transform the company culture, motivate people to do better and lead to business and industrial growth.

Managers are more inclined to react to change than to bring about change and make every attempt to safeguard the company culture and keep risks to a minimum. They rely on what they know and what they have always known. They may readapt and modify existing methods to improve work processes, give specific work instructions to employees and monitor their work to reach the project objectives. They may assess successful projects to reuse the methodology.

Related: How To Develop Effective People Management Skills

5. Exercising authority

Leaders may exercise their authority in different ways, but often by motivating and inspiring people and creating circles of influence. Their followers look up to them due to their personal qualities and follow them voluntarily. Even people who do not work directly under them may have high regard for them and may consult them for advice on relevant topics. Leaders welcome feedback and discussions and are willing to gather information from various sources before making important decisions. They take responsibility for the decisions they make.

Managers owe their authority to their work position and exercise it by expecting employees to follow the established company policies. People who work under them obey their instructions since doing so is part of their job description. Managers can take disciplinary action against employees or even fire them if they do not perform their assigned work as expected or violate company policies.

6. Creating value

Leaders create value with their innovative and enterprising attitudes. They make strategic decisions that can expand the business interests of the organisation. Aside from bringing in new work, they may give directions about how they want it done. They may even work on the projects themselves with their team members.

Managers direct, track and measure the work that the organisation provides. They assign work tasks to different employees, give them deadlines for work completions and monitor their progress. They may provide them with necessary resources and assistance and may or may not engage in the work themselves. They create work reports and maintain records of finished projects.

7. Developing relationships

Leaders place a lot of importance on cultivating and maintaining relationships. They try to include people in their vision of the future and ask for their assistance in achieving their short-term and long-term goals. They understand that strong relationships are vital for succeeding in the business world and, along with benefiting themselves, they also care about helping people to do better in their careers.

Managers also understand the importance of professional relationships and may participate in networking events, but they are more work-focused than people-focused. They want their employees to do well as that can get the work done as desired and on time. That, in turn, can benefit the company.

Why Is It Important To Know About The Leader And Manager Difference?

It is important to know the difference between a manager and a leader because it can benefit you career-wise. While you can advance to a managerial position in your organisation due to your qualifications and hard work, your long-term success as a manager may depend on your qualities as a leader. By understanding the traits of an effective leader, you can make a conscious effort to cultivate them and improve your leadership skills. It can help you to become a better manager. If you are a natural leader, understanding management principles can enable you to perform better in your job.

What Are Some Leadership Types?

The different types of leadership styles are:

  • Transactional leadership: The transactional leader has a give-and-take relationship with their team members and may use rewards and penalties to influence them into achieving the desired goals.

  • Charismatic leadership: A charismatic leader has magnetic personal qualities and excellent communication skills and is able to persuade people to invest their time, energy and resources in accomplishing a shared objective.

  • Transformational leadership: Transformational leaders are able to inspire a high level of trust in their followers and can encourage and empower them to push their limits and make personal and professional advancements.

  • Autocratic leadership: In the autocratic leadership style, the leader holds absolute power, makes all the decisions and expects subordinates to follow their diktats without questioning them.

  • Democratic leadership: Democratic leaders are those leaders who believe in taking the collaborative approach and encourage their teams to get involved in the decision-making process.

  • Bureaucratic leadership: Bureaucratic leaders generally attain their leadership position through their professional position or title and follow defined rules to handle their responsibilities, make decisions and direct others.

  • Visionary leadership: Visionary leaders have the ability to develop, plan and achieve innovative ideas and influence their teams to participate in bringing these ideas to fruition.

  • Laissez-faire leadership: In this type of leadership, the leader initiates projects and lets their teams work on them without micromanaging everything.

What Are Some Types Of Managers?

There are four main types of managers:

  • Corporate managers: Corporate managers are the decision-making executives at the top of the corporate hierarchy, such as the chief executive officer, the managing director, the chairman and the director.

  • Business-level managers: The business-level manager are division heads, plant managers and project managers and they communicate corporate decisions to the lower-level managers.

  • Functional managers: Functional managers are in charge of specific company departments, such as sales managers, marketing managers, production managers and research and development managers, and implement corporate instructions in their departments.

  • Front-line managers: Front-line managers lead and direct project teams and oversee the work activities of other company staff.


  • How To Become A Leader: A Guide (With Leadership Styles)

  • What Is The Importance Of Leadership In The Workplace?

  • Leadership Roles (With Examples And Functions Of Leadership)

  • How To Develop Leadership Skills (With Practical Tips)

  • In-Demand People Manager Skills (And How To Build Them)

  • 14 Qualities Of A Good Manager (And Why They Are Important)

  • Communication Skills For Managers: Definition And Examples

  • What Is Management? Definition, Functions and Levels

Explore more articles