The Leader vs. Manager: 4 Crucial Differences for Business Growth

The Leader vs. Manager: 4 Crucial Differences for Business Growth | Leadership | Emeritus

We live in an era of massive industrial transformation where traditional job roles are undergoing enormous changes. In the face of evolving business paradigms, transferable skills are in heavier demand than hardcore technical skills. This means that the boundaries separating the domains of soft skills, such as leadership and management, will be disappearing. However, even though a person can possess both managerial and leadership skills, the two aren’t completely interchangeable. This blog delves into the management vs. leadership debate and clarifies their essential differences. 

Management vs Leadership

What is Leadership?

Leadership refers to an individual or a group’s ability to influence and guide followers toward a predetermined goal or vision that also holistically serves the organization. 

Role of a Leader

  • Engaging in succinct communication 
  • Encouraging a vision and helping others adhere to it
  • Acknowledging effort and calling out inefficiencies
  • Creating work and roles that are engaging
  • Actively investing in the mental well-being of subordinates
  • Coordinating and collaborating with the management

What is Management?

Management is the entire set of processes required to accomplish a specific task that’s deemed essential for the well-being and consistent growth of an organization.

Role of a Manager

  • Envisioning practical goals after understanding the objectives
  • Optimizing growth by managing resources—human and technical
  • Improving the functional efficiency of subordinates
  • Leading with sensitivity toward the needs of each department
  • Combining the strategic, tactical, and operational goals of the organization

ALSO READ: 11 Essential Skills Every Prospective Leader Ought to Have

Similarities Between Leaders and Managers

Leaders and managers are equally important for business success. By streamlining different aspects of the organization, their collaboration leads to a synergy of resources, culminating in a successful project. The following are the similarities between the two in a management vs. leadership debate:

Growth-Oriented Mindset

Although their responsibilities differ, both the manager and the leader approach decisions and problems with the idea of achieving organizational growth. 


Without consistent effort, no project, even if supported by a radical idea, will materialize in reality. This is why both the manager and leader understand the importance of consistency in generating business value.

Trust in People

Relationships with employees are built on trust, no matter whether the relationship is an influential one (employee-leader duo) or an executive one (employee-manager duo). To foster workforce productivity, leaders and managers must encourage a regular structure that strengthens interpersonal relationships among professionals.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

This refers to the ability to regulate one’s emotions and not allow personal feelings to get in the way of professional work. This is a requirement for both managers and leaders, as without it, there’s a high chance they will face burnout.

Differences Between Leaders and Managers

Management vs Leadership

The management vs. leadership debate takes us to the organizational basics and crucial synergy formed by these two roles. The keener our observations, the better we will be able to gauge the differences and increase work efficiency through the collaboration of leading and managing.


The prime success of a leader lies in formulating a vision, while a manager’s success quotient depends on implementing that vision. 

A leader will visualize a goal, set out its path, filter the discrepancies, measure the obstacles, and clear the developmental roadmap for growth. They will scrutinize the position of an organization within a larger socio-economic context, within the networked space of trade and commerce, as well as in the realm of development, and envision a target. 

When it comes to the manager, they complement this target with different implementation processes. Their sole purpose is to actualize the leader’s vision through budgeting, optimizing resources, setting planning and organizing strategies, etc. 

ALSO READ: 5 Best Leadership Podcasts That Will Make You a Better Leader


The management vs. leadership dichotomy in terms of their roles involves a distinction in coordination and association. While managers achieve the goals of the top hierarchy by distributing the entire developmental roadmap into adaptable and achievable chunks of work, leaders concern themselves with influencing people and keeping their mindset aligned with the larger goals of a project.

If managers complete project goals by delegating authority to different people as they see fit, leaders master the concept of direction. They are adept at finding the most effective direction in which the desired goals will be met with minimum resistance. Leaders further expand on this vision by introducing a specific role in a larger business context and gauging the growth potential of the same. 

Positional Distinctions

Owing to the aforementioned functional distinctions, the work processes and perspectives from which they look at a project also vary widely. The management of a company looks at projects from the standpoint of achievement—furnishing the processes of planning, coordinating, staffing, and controlling. Decisions made by leaders and taken up by the management team are looked at purely through the lens of execution. 

The leadership approaches a project through the prism of decision-making. This is why extensive introspection is characteristic of a leader’s job. They always reflect on their decisions, which percolate and affect every aspect of the business.

Qualitative Distinctions

In terms of quality, a leader has a single definition: one who inspires people to give their best. Conversely, the manager is bound by a strict administrative definition of a specific job with a fixed set of responsibilities within the organizational structure. 

Three Tests of Leadership-Management

By now, it is quite clear that the management vs. leadership debate leads us to a spectrum of overlapping roles, responsibilities, visions, etc. To correctly gauge your role in an organization, let’s take a look at where you fall in the three following spectrums:

1. Counting Value to Creating Value

Simply put, leaders add or create value, while managers count value. Managers engage with the idea of value creation as the leader proposes it and focuses on counting it until the predestined value is reached. 

Leaders add value to the entire sum of effort of the production chain with their action-based decisions. For instance, a leader creates value by assigning a new work paradigm to someone and harnessing their potential.

ALSO READ: What is Performance Management?

2. Circles of Influence to Circles of Power

Managers have an entire horde of subordinates working for them, making them the center of power. They have a hierarchical approach toward their work. Leaders, on the other hand, create circles of influence where their success quotient depends on how many people outside their reporting ladder reach out to them for advice or assistance.

3. Leading People to Managing People

A manager holds a certain dominant position over the hierarchy and leads teams from a position of power. Leaders proactively motivate individuals and belong to the other end of the spectrum, where inspiration and influence are the driving factors.

In the wider debate on management vs. leadership, it is also important to note that business uncertainties often necessitate managers and leaders to swap roles and enhance each other’s positions. To know the technical nitty-gritty of how leadership-management synergy finally leads to business success, join one of the comprehensive leadership courses by Emeritus and find out what it takes to lead.

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About the Author

Content Contributor, Emeritus
Siddhesh is a skilled and versatile content professional with 4+ years of experience in writing for the digital space and the screen. As a polyglot with a flair for many different languages, he specializes in creating engaging narratives. With a passion for storytelling and an unwavering commitment to excellence, he writes thought-provoking and persuasive blogs about careers in different fields. Siddhesh is a doting cat parent and has also graduated to becoming a musician after releasing his debut single on Spotify recently.
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