What’s the difference between a manager and a leader?

When you hear the words ‘leader’ and ‘manager’ you might think of them as one and the same thing – in actual fact, they’re anything but.

We recently sat down with the Steven Sefton from Think Zap, who are one of the leading web design glasgow agencies.

Here is what Steven had to say…..

“A manager tells you with no help, “Just get the thing done, I don’t care how you do it, but it needs done yesterday.” A leader shows you the way they think is best and asks for your input and together you both choose the best path to complete the task. A leader is in the trenches with you”

It’s said that anyone can become a manager – but being a leader requires a specific set of skills and attitudes to those that work around them. We’ll look at how attitudes on both side of the coin compare:

Managers focus on goals – but leaders instil a vision

If there’s a task to be performed, there are two significantly different ways of going about getting a team to achieve it.

When encouraged to focus on just the goal, a team can be left floundering, unsure of the path to take.

If instead, time is taken to support a team to envisage what’s needed to achieve that task – the goal will be achieved as a by-product of the journey that’s being made.

Leaders help you develop – managers give you tasks

If you give someone a step-by-step method of completing a task before sending them away to complete it – the best you’ll ever get from that person is a box-ticked or ‘job done’ report back.

Repeating a process in a parrot fashion doesn’t inspire development – meaning this is an area where leaders can set themselves apart.

Leaders will encourage people to go away and attempt a task themselves. Providing some guidance is important – but understanding the rich learning and development that’s inspired when a person needs to think independently offers that person a chance to improve their performance long-term.

Managers will tread water – while leaders strive for more

They say a leader is never satisfied – that there’s always another goal over the next brow of the hill.

A manager is someone who’s likely to go home happy that the job is ‘done’ – not necessarily to the highest possible standard – but done nonetheless.

In the long term, the manager’s area of business is likely to stagnate because of this – whereas the leader will be driving their business area to new heights.

Leaders will beat a new path – but managers copy

In the same way that managers are likely to expect employees to simply regurgitate processes and ways of working – they themselves will look to emulate the performance of others, handling their role in a formulaic manner.

Leaders on the other hand will look to innovate, hoping that a new way of working might open doors to new levels of performance and productivity.

Managers avoid risk – leaders understand why risk is important

Being risk averse might seem like a safe and dependable options – but rarely does a ‘safe pair of hands’ equate to long-term business success.

A good leader understands that risk can be an important part of performing to the highest level.

As a result – leaders will fail more frequently than managers, but instead of seeing shame in doing so – these failures can be chalked up to experience, meaning the next shot at a big goal is more likely to result in success.

Leaders see a far-off goal – managers focus on short-term

Delaying gratification becomes second nature for a leader. Achieving great things rarely, if ever, happens overnight – and working hard on a task for a long time might be the only route to success.

For a manger, this can be demoralising, even in small doses.

Typically, a manager will look for praise and acknowledgement for the smallest of ‘achievements’ – and often these achievements are actually just maintaining a stationary position and not sliding backward.

As a result, it’s often only leaders who’ll take their business area to new heights – simply because they’ve got the will and expertise to keep people alongside them for the whole journey.

Leaders look for weakness in themselves – managers lean on current skill

Self-awareness is one of the ultimate tools in professional development.

For a leader, discovering a weakness in their attitude or approach represents an enormous opportunity – one which will often result in greater things if that weakness can be understood, harnessed and turned into a chance for development.

It would be wrong to suggest managers are without skill – they wouldn’t occupy their position if this were the case. However, simply looking for opportunities to apply this fixed skillset leads to inflexible ways of working – with little opportunity for movement outside of their comfort zone.

Weaknesses will always prove to be a roadblock on the road to success – and this is especially the case if you close your eyes, press the accelerator and pretend they’re not there…

Managers see processes first – leaders see people first

When there are boxes that require ticking, the fast route to getting that done is to put people in a position where the process is at the heart of what they’re doing.

This is a common practice of the manager – understanding what that process is and expecting an employee to adapt to suit the role.

What a leader realises is, there’s far more merit, longevity and long-term benefit to first understanding your people – then applying them to the processes in which they will excel.

It’s for this reason that leaders generally see greater productivity from the same number of people – and also see a far smaller employee turn-over…

People work for managers – people excel for leaders

When all the manager’s and leader’s traits are combined, a full picture of why there’s such polarised opinions on each becomes clear.

There’s no reason a manager cannot be likeable – lacking leadership qualities doesn’t make someone unpalatable – but it does mean you’re unlikely to fly when you’re working for one. Because of this, it’s also unlikely that working for a manager is going to bolster your confidence, professional development or general self-esteem.

It’s proven that when those elements of a person are satisfied, they will stay in a role – and these are exactly the things that become turbo-charged when you’re working for an inspirational leader.

It’s no coincidence that leaders have people who’ll follow them almost unconditionally into another role. Knowing that you’re working for someone who puts you first, supports you and encourages your development – while at the same time achieving highly, means the person at the helm of the business is often more important than the specifics of that company…

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