Manager or Leader: Which Are You?

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There has always been an on-going debate on the differences between a leader and a manager. Many have asserted that leaders have followers, while managers have subordinates. Reading numerous articles on management and leadership styles had revealed to me several core differences between the two which would have probably resulted in such a portrayal.


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That said, I’ve come to believe that such differences exist on a continuum, where on one extreme you can be a great manager and on the other extreme, you can be considered a true blue leader.

Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle as both manager and leader, depending on the circumstances we face. So how can you tell if you are manager material or born to lead? Here are 8 core differences that can help you decide.

1. Visionary Vs. Task-Oriented

Leaders are more concerned about the direction or the overall strategy of the organization and then giving their followers the freedom to plan the details and meet goals and objectives. Managers, on the other hand, handle immediate tasks or hit short-term goals.

It may be appropriate to say that leaders think big while managers are more task-oriented. Having a vision for the organization is of utmost importance to leaders while managers dwell on how to execute said vision.

2. Transformational Vs. Transactional

Managers adopt a solely transactional approach to subordinates. This means that managers seek for their services in exchange for a paycheck. This is not the same for leaders, who actually go beyond such transactional needs to satisfy higher levels of needs for their followers, such as the need to find meaning in their work.

This appeals to followers, being transformational in the sense that these employees are not working for themselves; they are working for the team or the organization that goes beyond self-interest.

3. Elected Vs. Hired

Titles and authority are granted to managers so that they have the necessary power to make people do as they say. Leaders are, however, elected by the people who choose to follow them rather than being made or paid to do so. Respect is not guaranteed for managers but it is already earned by leaders.

With that, leaders are thus more influential because they have followers who do what they say out of respect. Managers get their subordinates to follow their orders out of authority. Naturally, employees will be happier doing what the leaders want rather than the managers say.

4. Servant Vs. Self-serving

A leader serves his or her followers rather than use them to serve him or her. In other words, leaders fight for their followers and put the group’s needs beyond their own. Managers (well, some of them) put blame on their subordinates when things go wrong and take credit when things are right.

After all, a manager’s role is to manage subordinates in order to attain certain managerial objectives. This is not the case for leaders because they value their followers and seek to serve the entire group.

5. Character-Building Vs. Skill-Building

Since managers are task-oriented and aim to hit short-term goals, their philosophy of training for their subordinates tends to be skill-based. If a certain skill or knowledge is required to complete a task, then a manager will simply acquire a worker with the required skills to perform the job.

Leaders are not just looking into what is in front of them; they seek out the potential – what they can do in the future rather than what they can already do now – in people. Therefore, their training philosophy emphasizes on character-building.

6. Trust Vs. Control

Leaders think ahead, then set directions for the group. They place their trust on their followers to make whatever plans necessary to move forward towards that direction. The element of trust associated with leaders empowers followers to freely make their decisions on day-to-day matters.


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Managers, on the other hand, think only on how to get the tasks done in the most efficient manner, so there is a need for them to set the instructions as detailed as possible for the subordinates to adhere to. They seek control over subordinates to ensure optimal results.

7. Seeking Possibilities Vs. Avoiding Risks

Working within a scope of tasks and goals can bring rigidity to managers because there is little flexibility involved. This systematic approach to management in order to complete assigned tasks can render managers averse to risks.

On the contrary, leaders do not confine themselves to short-term goals or “firefighting”. Hence they are open to new ideas, and will seek possibilities for the team and the organization as a whole. Instead of using old and tested methods like managers do, leaders are always looking for new ways of doing things.

8. Growth Vs. Sustenance

Leaders, with their visionary approach, tend to lay their eyes on growth rather than sustenance for the organization and the people. Managers are more interested in getting their job done, so there is little or no emphasis on growth.

As a result, it’s the leaders who are the ones to initiate changes; good managers only adapt to changes. This also applies to people management, where leaders groom followers for the long-term while managers inadvertently constrain subordinates to be trained with only what is necessary for the job.

References

If you are the reading type, here are more references:

Conclusion

Although this article seems to cast managers in a bad light and glorify the role of a leader, my personal opinion is that a leader needs to be a good manager to be effective as well. After all, what are dreams and visions without proper planning and, more importantly, action.

Author:

Michael is a freelance blogger and regular contributor for Hongkiat.com. He graduated from the National University of Singapore with a double major in Psychology and Communications & New Media in 2011.He believes in the power of the written word to influence and inspire. An enthusiastic video gamer, Michael is also actively engaged in various physical activities in his spare time.

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