Despite the fact that leadership and management are complementary positions, they are not one and the same. While managers are responsible for controlling or administering a company, not all of the individuals who fill these critical roles have the proper skills to be effective leaders. In order to gain a better understanding of the contrast between leaders and managers, it’s important to take a closer look at these three key variances.
1. Reactive vs. Proactive
Generally, managers are more reactive while leaders are more proactive.
Managers are given a specific set of instructions and guidelines that they are to follow in order to strategically carry out their job duties. As a manager, if something doesn’t go as planned or if you experience setbacks, you’ll react to the situation accordingly. Whether you react to the particular situation by using company resources like money and equipment or by using management skills such as controlling and problem-solving, chances are you’ll stay within the clearly outlined limits of your job description.
Leaders, on the other hand, tend to be more proactive when confronted with challenges. Instead of acting on impulse, leaders know how to roll with the punches and encourage others to do the same. As a leader, you also have the confidence in your skills and the skills of your team to overcome any setbacks that throw your plan off course. Not only do these leadership attributes help to create a calm, productive environment, but they also signal to others that you’re prepared to take charge of whatever situation you and your team might encounter.
2. Employees vs. Acolytes
By definition, managers have subordinates while leaders have followers.
Managers are hired by the company to operate in a position of authority, meaning they tend to have power over a group of employees who largely do as they are told. As a manager, you carry out transactions with your employees; you tell them what to do and they do it because of the reward—or salary—they are given for doing so. In the larger scheme of things, you, the manager, are also a subordinate and are paid to complete a variety of job tasks often within tight time and money constraints.
Leaders, when they want to lead, have to give up formal authoritarian control to garner voluntary commitment from followers. Telling people what to do and how to do it will not encourage people to view you as a leader. Instead, you must appeal to them by encouraging them to be leaders themselves and creating key performance indicators instead of listing “to-dos.” Lastly, leaders understand that gaining acolytes and people who trust in them to lead the way takes time.
3. Safe Player vs. Risk-Taker
Managers play it safe while leaders seek out and take risks.
Interesting research has found that managers tend to come from stable backgrounds and have led typically normal, comfortable lives. Because of this, most managers are relatively averse to risk and will take big measures to avoid conflict. Though some managers try to lead with new ideas and make unauthorized changes within the company, they also don’t tend to take responsibility if and when the idea fails or comes into question.
Leaders seek out risks and strive to strategically pursue their vision. As a leader, you consider problems and hurdles part of the path to success and know they can be overcome along the way. This makes you comfortable with taking risks and looking for solutions that others may not see or that others might avoid for fear of potential outcomes. Lastly, superior leaders know that times will inevitably be hard; positions might need to be cut, payments might be reduced, hours might be increased, but in the end you’ll be ready to take the risks to get things done.
Though managing and leading may not have the same definition, that doesn’t mean you—as a manager—cannot shine as a leader in your company. By being proactive in the face of adversity, encouraging leadership amongst employees, and learning to take smart risks, you can fulfill your management position with superior leadership qualities.