Leader vs. manager

This topic always fires a "never ending" debate. But I like it. It shows how we perceive our surroundings, leaders, managers and our life in whole. It implies that having different opinions is better than having none.

Therefore, some people describe it as two different positions – like:
  • A manager is a person who do things right; A leader is the person who do the right things.
  • A manager puts on the first place the results and indicators – numbers. A leader puts on the first place the people to achieve those results.
  • A manager imitates others. A leader originates.
  • A manager has a short-range perspective (Present = Manager). A leader has a long-range perspective (Future = Leader).
  • A manager manages the things so that dreams/visions of a leader come true.
  • A manager plans tactics. A leader plans strategy.
  • A manager is risk cautious. A leader takes the necessary risks.
Others explain it as the same coin with two faces or just two names for the same subject – like:
  • Leadership and management are activities performed by people. These activities are two sides of the same coin; you can't get an organization to perform by using one side.
  • Asking such a question presupposes that manager is not, or cannot be effective leaders.
  • A leader without management skills is a dreamer. A manager without leadership skills is a puppet.
  • The job of management is not supervision, but leadership.
  • Being a leader and being a manager are not mutually exclusive.
  • A manager is part of a leader role.
  • A management is a composite of both traditional management and leadership skills.
Boss vs. Leader

If I would be asked the question, I would tell a story that I like to recount to my students and fits me great:

There is a group of people lost in a rain forest. They are cutting the path through brushwood. There is a man shouting: "cut faster, cut wider, cut ...". Obvious a manager.

But where is a leader?

On top of a high tree shouting down: "we are heading the wrong direction!"

Not a 100% real life example but for me it express the difference between those two positions.


  1. A key distinction between management and leadership in my organization is in internal conviction; leaders feel that they have a vocation while managers think that they have a job. Henceforth managership is frown upon and leadership is admired.


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