Managers VS Leaders: Which is Really Better?

Why talk about this?

There are many similarities between managers and leaders, but when you look beneath the surface, you will see that there are crucial differences at the core.

First, let’s take a look at the characteristics of a manager, and then we will compare them to that of a leader.


  • Give directions
  • Tell others what to do
  • Focus on getting tasks done
  • Focus on the short term
  • Develop processes that keep people and things running smoothly

None of these traits are bad. It’s more about the heart behind them that matters. 

You see, managers are more interested in telling people what to do. They look for a short-term win.

Managers say, “What are we going to get done in the next few minutes, hour, or by the end of the day?”

Their concern is in the right now – the immediate.

A manager is also far more interested in creating processes and systems for managing people and things, equally.

People don’t generally like to be managed. They prefer to be led, supervised, cared for, and coached.

And don’t confuse the term “Manager” with a manager who leads. You can have the title of “Manager” but still have the mindset of a leader.


  • I’m the boss
  • I’ll tell you what to do
  • Do it my way
  • You don’t need to ask a lot of questions

Consequently, a manager won’t get a lot of cooperation from their team nor a sense of willingness. They won’t receive a sense of initiative or appropriate risk from employees. People will hesitate to bring out creativity or share ideas. They won’t be open with their thoughts.

Managed people say things like, “It’s not my job,” or “Nobody told me to do that.”

Now let’s take a look at Managers who lead. Listen to the heart of what a leader is.


  • Set direction
  • Guide people to achieve
  • Support individuals and teams so they willingly want to get things done
  • Focus on the long term
  • Develop processes to define a clear vision of the future that inspires, supports, and aligns people with achieving that vision

Leaders still care about getting things done and being productive. They also want to hit goals and benchmarks.

But they do it in a different mindset.

Leaders are more focused on how to work together in the same direction, not because they tell people they have to, but because team members are willing to.

Leaders work hard not to have to exercise their power and authority – but to exercise relationships – to exercise empowering and engaging people – allowing them to be motivated and not necessarily see themselves as the motivator.

– Jim Rowell


Manager: “I’m the one that has to motivate.”

Leader: “I can create an environment for motivation to occur, but I’m looking for individuals to motivate.”


Take another look at the lists above. Do you have a clear vision for the long-term future? Is your desire to come alongside, to empower and to engage employees, so they feel free to share their creativity with you and the rest of the team? And do they feel supported?

The adjustment from “Manager” to a Manager that leads can make a marked difference in your company’s culture and productivity.

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