Are you a Leader or a Manager?


Do you consider yourself to be a Leader or a Manager? Do others see you as a Leader or Manager?

What is the difference between a Leader and a Manager?

​According to a report by the Harvard Business Review, a manager manages work while a leader leads people. Sounds simple and straightforward right?!

​Leading people requires having ‘soft skills’. There is nothing fluffy about soft skills. These skills are often harder to learn. I believe that most managers aspire to be good leaders. I believe that leadership is about inspiring, motivating and dealing with stressful situations. Leadership requires unique management of ‘soft skills’ such as dealing with challenging conversations, influencing others, improving team performance, changing behaviour, inspiring others and changing organisational culture. This can be summed up as emotional intelligence (EI). EI encompasses self-awareness, self-control, awareness of others and building relationships. It is the ability to know and manage these competencies. I believe that having high EI is a key part of leadership. It is what sets the leader apart from the manager. This is not to say that a manager cannot have high emotional intelligence!

Key Differences

​Members of the Forbes Coaches Council share their views on the key differences between a manager and a leader. I outline what I believe are the top 4 differences.

(1) A leader wants the teams to win: the difference between a manager and a leader lies in the mindset and perception. A manager’s day and/ or week is consumed by operational day-to-day tasks. The necessary tasks get done. A leader on the other hand, looks at the bigger picture outside of the day-to-day operational task. A leader takes on challenges instead of waiting for projects to land in their lap. A leader develops the team members so that the collective effort makes a difference to the organisation.

(2) A leader is visionary, a manager is tactical: a leader focuses on strategy and moving the organisation forward in the direction that is best for the organisation. A manager runs the day-to-day operations and gets the job done.

(3) A leader asks “why” instead of “How”: a leader challenges the status quo and is creative. A manager manages the day-to-day performance and execution of the business.

(4) A manager micromanages while a leader inspires: a manager instructs people what to do and how to do it. A manager typically needs to micromanage the small details. A leader inspires others while being curious. Coaching teams form part of the inspiration for a leader.

​Overall, I believe that the key difference is in the mindset. There has to be a change in mindset from doing to imagining what could be done. A greater use of the not-so-soft soft skills is paramount to being a successful leader.

​Despite the difference, all organisations need both managers and leaders. The title manager or leader does not necessarily equate to the characteristics discussed here. Many professionals with the job title of manager can in fact be leaders. Many professionals with the job title of a leader/ director/ head / executives can in fact be managers.

Article by:  Rabia Mirza