The difference between being a leader and being a manager.

If you’re responsible for running a team or a business, are you a manager or are you a leader? It’s a subject that has long been debated in the business world. But can you really separate the two?

It’s that age-old dilemma around whether you are in the business or whether you are on the business. Are you simply running the business day-to-day, or are you taking it forward?

While leadership and management are two very different things, they are not mutually exclusive. It is useful to think about it as a continuum with leadership at one end and management at the other.

Depending on the size of the organisation that you’re in, those at both ends of the scale will need to do something of the other.

Workers or followers
The main difference usually cited between leaders and managers is leaders have people who follow them while managers have people who work for them. While leaders lead and let others manage, the best managers understand their leader’s vision and work with their teams to achieve it.

A leader is someone who inspires, who is an agent for change and who drives through strategy by making sure everyone buys into the business’ future path.
They usually have personal charisma, great communication skills and the courage to do things differently.

But, even if you are the company CEO, there are times when you will have to roll your sleeves up. You can’t simply stroll around a business being presidential. Sometimes, nothing inspires employees more than seeing the person right at the top of the business getting stuck in.
It’s vital to recognise what it means to be at both ends of the spectrum of leadership and management, and to understand what proportion of each you should be doing.
A lot of individuals have been promoted because they were good at their previous job and they don’t step up quickly enough into a new leadership role, which has a different set of responsibilities.

Employees who are engaged provide better service to your business users, whether they are guests, clients, customers or partners. But in order for employees to be engaged, you, as leader, need to enrol them in your vision and get them excited about where they are going within the business.
For smaller firms, the challenge is to ensure you are both leading your team as well as managing your company’s day-to-day operation. Those who are able to do both well will often find they have the advantage over their competitors.

While leaders will take on some management tasks and managers will assume some leadership responsibilities, the key is to understand where you sit between the two.

Sue Alderson, director of Azure Consulting