It’s always good to know the difference and what to expect from your Team Leader and from your Manager, or if already in a management role, what others expect from you…
In my opinion, the biggest difference between managers and leaders is the way they motivate the people who work or follow them, and this sets the tone for most other aspects of what they do.
Many people do both. They are in a management position, but they realize you need buy-in from everyone in order to go down a difficult road, so they lead too.
The main difference… Managers have subordinates. Managers also have a position of authority vested in them by the company, and their subordinates work for them and largely do as they are told. Management style is this case is considered transactional, because the the manager tells the subordinate what to do, and the subordinate does it in exchange for salary. Managers are paid to get things done too, often within tight constraints of time and money, thus they naturally pass along work to their subordinates.
Another interesting finding relating to managers is that they tend to come from stable home backgrounds and lead relatively normal and comfortable lives. This generally leads them to be relatively risk-averse and they seek to avoid conflict, whenever possible. They like their personal and professional lives to mirror each other as they aim to run a “happy ship’.
Leaders… Have followers, not subordinates, at least not when they are leading. Many organizational leaders do have subordinates, but only because they are also managers. But when they want to lead, they have to give up formal authoritarian control, because to lead is to have followers, and following is always a voluntary activity. Telling people what to do generally will not inspire them to follow you. In order to build a following, you have to find a way to appeal to them by showing how following them will work out for you and for them. They must want to follow you enough to stop what they are doing and perhaps walk into dangerous situations which they would not normally consider risking.
Leaders who have diplomacy and some charisma find it easier to attract people to their cause. As a part of their persuasion they typically promise transformational benefits, such that their followers will not just receive extrinsic rewards but will somehow become better people, and enjoy the trip.
Although many leaders have a charismatic style to some extent, this does not require a loud personality. Good leaders are always very good with people, and they almost automatically give credit to others (and takes blame on themselves) which makes them very effective at creating loyalty that great leaders engender.
Although leaders are good with people, this does not mean they are friendly with them. In order to keep the mystique of leadership, they often retain a degree of separation and aloofness. separating office life from home to the greater extent helps. Not hanging out with your staff / subordinates also helps set you apart.
This does not mean that leaders do not pay attention to tasks – in fact they are often very achievement-focused. What they do realize, however, is the importance of empowering others to work towards their vision.
Earlier I mentioned that managers tend to be risk-averse, and to that point, leaders appear to be more along the lines of risk-seekers, not to be confused with thrill-seekers. When pursuing their vision, leaders consider it natural to encounter problems and hurdles that must be overcome along the way. They are thus comfortable with risk and will see routes that others avoid as potential opportunities for advantage and will happily break rules in order to get things done.
A surprising number of these leaders had some form of handicap in their lives which they had to overcome. Some had traumatic childhoods, some had problems such as dyslexia, some were overweight as a child, had acne, low self-esteem, or were shorter than average. The overcoming of this event perhaps taught them the independence of mind that is needed to go out on a limb and not worry about what others are thinking about you.
The table below summarizes the above (and more) and gives a sense of the differences between being a leader and being a manager. This is, of course, an illustrative characterization, and there is a whole spectrum between either ends of these scales along which each role can range and many people lead and manage at the same time, and so may display a combination of behaviors.
|Focus||Leading people||Managing work|
|Approach||Sets direction||Plans detail|
|Power||Personal charisma||Formal authority|
|Exchange||Excitement for work||Money for work|
|Direction||New roads||Existing roads|
|Concern||What is right||Being right|