Managers Versus Leaders

It would be fair to say that all of us at one time or another have had problems with our boss, whether it was when you started your career or if you are a manager yourself. There are things that he or she does that irk, irritate or even anger you. Hopefully there were also times where you were glad they were there to help you and to give advice. And perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to have a boss that you’ve looked up to.

Every boss is different and has different styles, even if they had read the all same self-help material or been to the same management courses. You’ll never encounter the same ones twice, but there is a way to define the type of boss you have, or the type of boss you are (or can be).

Even before I had people reporting to me, I understood the distinction between those who are ‘Managers’, and those who are ‘Leaders’.

Setting Tasks and Objectives

Managers are no-nonsense: they will set you a task with a deadline and expect little to no discussion on the matter. They use authority as their primary driver to get things done.

Leaders will collaborate: they will discuss the task with you with the required deadline and will expect your co-operation, but are open to discussion if you believe the task will take longer or is more complicated than expected. They use goodwill and an open dialogue to agree to the ‘what’ and the ‘when’.


It isn’t called micro-management for nothing. The Manager will be the proverbial (and sometimes literal) person over your shoulder, checking to make sure that every intricate detail of a task or project is being met.

The Leader will trust that you’re getting on with the job unless you ask for clarification or assistance. Of course this a relationship built on trust, and you need to ensure that you don’t let your Leader down by delivering late without prior discussion, or delivering something half-baked.


A Leader says “we”, a Manager says “I” or “you”, depending on what suits. Moreover, the Leader will give or share the credit, a Manager will take the credit.

Iron Fist or Firm Handshake?

A Manager will use their position of authority ensure compliance. They are often the “do as I say, not as I do” people. A Leader will lead by example and get you to follow them willingly, not just because they are your boss.

It’s important to realise that whether people are conscious of it or not, we often emulate our superiors.

Mentoring and Development

A Manager wants the most they can get out of you right now without looking to the long-term. A Leader will see your potential and work with you to develop it. They want not only the most out of you, but the best as well, and will develop ways to help you achieve this.


I’ll admit that the above shows to ends of the spectrum; there is definitely room between these two extremes to incorporate leadership qualities in a Manager.┬áIt’s also important to note that you can be a Leader without being a Manager, and when hiring from within it’s those who show those leadership qualities who will most often be giving the opportunities to step up.

Which one are you?

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