What Is The Difference Between A Leader And A Manager?

The words “leader” and “manager” are commonly used in business and are often used interchangeably, but have you ever wondered the differences between leadership and management? If you have, well the answer is lots!  


In fact, you’ve clicked on this link to understand the difference between leadership and management – We bet you may instinctively already know. 


You know because you feel different when you’re around a manager compared to a leader…


Read on, as we dive into leadership vs management.


A manager is essentially a leading member of an organisation whose key responsibilities are to plan, organise, lead by example and to bring structure to a business. You can have good and bad managers.


Take a moment to think about the best or worst teacher, boss or sports coach you’ve ever had: 


What were they like? What did they do? Perhaps more importantly – How did they make you feel? 


Managers are focused on accomplishing the task at hand and meeting deliverables. If you were lucky and worked with a good manager, you may have noticed some of the qualities which are vital to the development of staff, which include being treated with respect rather than just another worker. 


You are given strong guidance and you find their communication easy to follow. 



  1. Efficient and task-focused
  2. Can bring structure to an organisation
  3. Work to minimise risks while on the job
  4. They are often ‘by the book’ 
  5. Managers tend to delegate and have a good ability to direct
  6. Strategic Thinkers that follow a pre-set Business Vision
  7. Autonomous and responsible

However, when people are promoted into the role of manager, this is often when the good vs bad manager within comes out… Management is a skillset, which means it can be learnt. Good managers have high skills in the list above. When someone doesn’t have these skills, they compensate with ego and become a bad manager. Leadership skills are different as it’s more innate to a person, it’s in their heart naturally, not taught. 


Thinking now about the best boss, teacher or sports coach you ever had… you probably felt great being around them and looked forward to working with them. 


They believed in you and you felt it, they let you make mistakes and encouraged you to give it another go. Whenever you engaged with them you walked away feeling better about yourself and what you were doing with your work and/or life. They ‘lead’ you at some point in your life. They are leaders. 


There are important differences between managers and leaders:



The primary difference between management and leadership is that leaders are visionaries who lead by having a vision and purpose. 


Great leaders create and innovate, setting new trends with natural leadership skills, which is what some manager do not do – another difference between leaders and managers. 


Generally, leaders tend to challenge the status quo and they see the future as an exciting opportunity and work to build others up by encouraging them to do well and succeed.




  1. High-level communication skills
  2. Empathy and emotional intelligence
  3. Honesty and integrity
  4. Confidence and resilience
  5. Commitment, optimism and passion
  6. Accountability and transparency
  7. Creativity and innovation
  8. Humility and appreciation for others



Great leaders create a vision, managers create goals. As a small business grows, many take the very exciting and daunting step of hiring their first employee. If this is you, Congratulations! It’s a huge milestone for you and your business! 


Many owners can fall into the trap of expecting to teach their new employee exactly how things are done in the owner’s way; this is management. 


While it’s important you manage, if you just do this then the experience will not be great for the owner or the new employee, as the owner always feels they can do it quicker and better themselves (no trust), and the employee feels this. They don’t feel like they can bring their own skill set and personality to the table and contribute. 


It’s normal to want to manage something you’ve put your heart and soul into, especially when you’ve found a system or way that really works for you. 


When hiring people, train them in your systems AND allow them to come up with new ones. Let them do this to have ideas to test. Some will work, some won’t. Your business will grow quicker and be more innovative when you LEAD this way.


Leaders tend to create an atmosphere that motivates people, getting them to pursue success on their own by helping them realise their significance to the organisation and the value of their contributions.


To run a great business, you must actually have a balance between leadership and good management. If you are just a great leader, you will motivate everyone but not much will get done. If you are a good manager but don’t have the leadership in you, then things will get done but vision and growth will not be evident in the business. Metaphorically, if management skills are your hands, leadership is your heart. You need to have hands and your heart working together to run a successful small business. 




Finally, how does one transition from being just a manager with a title into a leader who everyone admires and respects?


To become a great leader with excellent leadership skills, one must first of all understand the difference between a manager and a leader and also follow these helpful tips:


Continuously learn: 


Remember leadership is always about your heart. So feeding your heart and mind with new information will only grow and strengthen it. Seek to learn something new every day.


 It can be from an academic or industry resource, a magazine or random information from snatches of conversation on a bus or a train. Learn from your people and customers, too. Ask for honest feedback and implement an open door policy. Encourage informal staff meetings and other methods of fostering clear and efficient communication. 


You can also learn by listening to podcasts, reading books, making friends with other business owners who have more staff than you and been in the business longer. Have regular coffees and catch-ups with them. Remember, you become like who you hang around with, so make sure you hang around good leaders. There are plenty out there!


Listen intently before speaking: 

Practice makes perfect, and this is very true when it comes to effective listening. Many people in management roles are only too eager to dispense advice or react to people and situations without taking the time to listen – really listen to others and come up with sensible answers and solutions.



Learn from your previous managers: 

Find out what your predecessors did well and not so well. Decide to follow or emulate or even build upon their successes.



Be inclusive and embrace diversity: 

Instead of viewing differences as obstacles or dividers, invite more perspectives and encourage creative thinking.


Keep people inspired and motivated:

As a leader, focusing on the positive helps to inspire and motivate others. You can do this by expressing appreciation for others’ efforts and contributions and emphasising how each individual’s work adds value to your team or company’s achievements.



Let your team make mistakes, yes, even the expensive ones: 

When you allow your team to make mistakes and seek to ensure they learnt from them they will feel better about themselves and work extra hard to please you next time. 


This also helps when you make a mistake, because you are human and growing a business and yourself too. When you make a mistake, your staff will show more grace and compassion towards you because you first modelled it to them. This is a great, supportive and innovative culture you are creating in your small business.





When transitioning, use your gut instinct, leadership is heart, it’s your feelings. Use them. You will always feel good uplifting and motivating someone, giving grace for mistakes made and seeing someone’s head lift a little higher and shoulders move a little back when you speak to them… because you spoke to them. 


You will feel good when you’re leading, use this as your checkpoint.

(c) Copyright 2021 The Milestone Academy

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