Manager Versus Leader

June 30, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

You’ve probably wondered at some point in your career… what’s the difference between leading and managing? Some managers lead… other leaders manage. If you label yourself one, does that mean you can’t do the other? Do they really differ? These are all questions that make sense, ought to be asked, and at the end of the day, matter if you’re a manager.

If we bucket these two things together – we’re not totally doing ourselves wrong… but this is the analogy that comes to mind for me. A lot of people PAINT. Yes, I’m talking about the brush-in-hand technique. Some painters would call themselves artists. Some painters would be called artists by others. And then, there are some painters who wouldn’t be considered artists at all. And one could ask the same sort of question… what differentiates a painter from an artist? At what point does a painter become an artist?

Not every leader is a manager. And not every manager is a leader. BUT… every manager has the ability and opportunity to become a leader. Just like every painter has the potential (if desired and pursued) to become an artist. There are many things that separate the two – but, I’ll try to summarize.

Managers assign. Leaders inspire.

Managers plan. Leaders picture.

Managers organize. Leaders risk.

Managers talk. Leaders demonstrate.

Managers employ. Leaders empower.

Managers assimilate. Leaders innovate.

Managers look. Leaders create.

Managers adhere to the box. Leaders step outside of the box.

Managers use familiarity. Leaders spot opportunity.

Now, this isn’t to suggest that managers who aren’t leaders aren’t good at all. But, I would argue that really great managers are leaders. And leaders are individuals that teams want to follow. If you’re a manger, it’s in your best interest to become a leader that others respect, admire and support. Here are 3 quick tips that will get you started on the journey:

#1. Broaden your perspective. Learn more. See more. Ask more. Get to know more people. Get to know more processes. Don’t work on becoming an expert on everything, but do work on becoming aware of it all. Don’t just keep it within the bounds of your company, the best leaders know the industry.

#2. Take risks. If you are motivated by fear and routine, it will be a long time before you become a leader. Leaders are courageous and willing to make mistakes. They want to challenge the status quo, so that things stay fresh and relevant. Managers feel safe when things are stagnant.

#3. Be yourself. Managers emulate others, but leaders use effective strategies while staying true to themselves. Leaders don’t just do it like somebody else has done – they create their own way, on their own terms.

Wherever you’re at, stay encouraged that becoming a great leader is a process. It’s not an overnight transition, it’s a persistent trek in a consistent direction.

Do you want to learn now how to be a more effective leader especially in challenging times? If so, I suggest you check this out:

And, do you want to assess or learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of your leadership skills so you can improve today? If so, I suggest you check our free assessment:

Rick Conlow is CEO with WCW Partners, a management consulting and training firm. Rick has helped organizations increase sales 218%, improve repeat and referral business by 20%, increase customer retention to 99%, reduce complaints by 60% and achieve 34 quality awards. You can reach Rick at: or 888-313-0514.

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