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Leaders vs. Managers: Are They Really Different?

Updated on April 14, 2018

There are different opinions and point of view about the difference between leaders and managers and whether really different. Many types of research have been done that claims there are large differences between leaders and managers.

A manager is an organizer of a business, responsible for directing and controlling the work and staff of a business or of a department. A manager in an organization is responsible for carrying out the four functions of management, including planning, organizing, leading and controlling. A manager may become a manager by the quality of position and subordinates follow the manager because of the job description and title. As mentioned above the managers are responsible for carrying out the four functions of management, the main concern is to complete organizational goals. Managers get paid to get things done in an organization. The manager is also accountable for the behavior and performance of the employees and has the authority and power to hire, promote, discipline and fire employees based on behaviors and performance. Management is about efficiency and getting results through systems, processes, procedures, controls and structure. On the other hand, a leader is defined to be completely opposite to a manager. A leader is a person followed by the other people in the organization and guides or directs others (, 2015).

The following essay will examine in depth the information regarding the difference between leaders and managers with examples. The second section outlines the duties of each of them, followed by a discussion and personal opinion on how managers and leaders are different from each other. The last section will include a conclusion that summaries the main points of the essay. This essay topic ‘Leaders vs. Managers are they really different? ’ is an important topic to talk about because it helps understand what a leader is and what a manager is and why it is important to know the differences between them.

Difference between Leaders and Managers

The topic states two important terminologies which are leaders and managers. So a manager is a person accountable for overseeing or dealing with an office or the organization. A manager takes choices in the interview with the subordinates. A normal obligation of a manager is to complete the task in a given time period by overseeing and coordination of the subordinates which meet expectations, while a leader has an obligation of inspiring the workers and furthermore finishing the assignment (Zaleznik, 2004). Managers tend to simply arrange the laborer to carry out an occupation and anticipate that it will be done while a leader needs to set an illustration and be a good example. Thirdly leaders need to draw out the best of an individual in the office or the association. As indicated by Zaleznik (2004) ‘Administrators grasp procedure, look for security and control, and intuitively attempt to determine issues rapidly—infrequently before completely comprehend an issue essentialness.’

A leader is a person who impacts a man or a gathering of individuals to accomplish a point or an objective. A leader has a great deal which is more assorted than a manager. These obligations themselves show managers and leaders are distinctive and capacities performed are additionally diverse (Zaleznik, 2004). Management makes decisions that are to be taken however a leader will twist or break the principles to make the general population agreeable. Managers’ activities are generally responsive and the leaders' responses are normally proactive. A manager wants individuals to work productively at diverse levels of the organization or office. Numerous individuals, however, feel that individuals who are extraordinary in performance or legislative issues are suitable to take up a leader’s position. A leader has to guarantee that the employees in the organization or in the area of expertise are persuaded and are willing to carry out the occupation (Algahtani, 2014).

Another reason why leaders and managers are different is that according to Plucknette (2014, p.16) ‘Leaders are visionaries, managers are administrators.’ Leaders are more concern about the production of goods and look for ways how to improve, what to produce and how to produce. Leaders are engaged with the workers during the production so that they are responsible for making the product. The manager main focus or concern is to apply the goals and direction of the boss. Managers only give directions about the production which are given to them by their boss. Managers pass on the orders to the leaders. This point is important because it states about the aims and how engagement with workers are done.

To continue with the differences, Plucknette (2014, p.16) found that ‘Leaders motivate the people they work with; managers oversee and regulate what people do.’ To prove that leaders and managers are different, researchers such as Plucknette states that leaders motivate people and demonstrate motivation on daily basis. Regular engagement with workers gives motivation to workers. Managers see how much product is made, how much overtime the people work and whether the result is better than the last month and are concern with the output and numerical data. For example, if the workers produce more output than before with the same resources than the average cost of goods decreases. I n this way they are motivated by producing more which results in financial or non- financial benefits. This is important because motivation makes worker work efficiently and therefore increases the production Plucknette (2014).

According to Plucknette (2014, p.16) ‘Leaders take risks based on long-term gains; managers take risks in hopes of short-term results.’ Leaders also take the risk which will benefit the company in the long-run. Managers may also take risks but it may only result in short-term changes. Furthermore, Leaders are the best decision makers and can also persuade people to follow decisions. On the other hand, managers are not the best decision makers and in that case, they are forced to give an opinion on others decision. As this is also important for managers and leaders because they both take risks in long term and short term.

There are more many differences but the last and final difference between managers and leaders is that leaders encourage and thrive on the open debate; managers provide direction and expect compliance (Plucnette, 2014, p. 16). Leaders do open debates to provide the right result in order to encourage the workers but managers just provide directions and do not go into detail for the right result.

Similarities between managers and leaders

The above explanation states the difference between managers and leaders. Firstly, it states that how managers and leaders work in order to become a better organization. Secondly, it also argues that how leaders and managers are motivated and how the job is done by the leaders and managers. According to sources leaders and managers are also similar in some of the task. According to this source (Algahtani, 2014) leaders and managers have similarities because both achieve goals or targets when the work is done with other people. If the goals are long term or short term, it does not matter because the leaders and managers are working with other people. So, it can be argued that leaders and managers are similar. (Algahtani, 2014) also tells that leaders and managers both influence others to get a job done.

Duties of Managers and Leaders

As mentioned above the differences between managers and leaders, simultaneously it also has some duties which are also different from each other. The duties of a manager are: coordinating, time management, resource usage and decision making.

Planning and budgeting: The managers plan for the future and makes the budget for future in order to compare the actual figures with the budgeted or estimated figures. Managers make Plans because it makes easy in the future to make decisions. The budgeting is also important for the managers because it tells how much cash is available to purchase an asset in the future.

Organizing and staffing: Managers are in charge of staffing the business. In a small business, this incorporates making sets of expectations, running advertisements for open positions, checking on resumes and applications, meeting planned representatives, procuring and terminating. The manager directs his staff, guaranteeing they have prepared appropriately and take after organization rules and arrangements. Depending upon the measure of the organization, the manager might be in charge of the finance department including counting work hours, computing pay, and handling checks (Zalezneik, 2004).

Controlling and problem solving: The manager controls the business by taking the amount of loan which is required and pay the loan back in its valid period so to make sure more interest is not paid. This means the business is controlled.

Whereas the duties of a leader are motivating people, inspiring, persuading, teamwork, building relationships, listening and counseling, coaching, teaching and motivating (Lunenburg, 2011).

Leaders motivate employees to work harder and make the employees feel that good job is done in order to achieve bonuses or fringe benefits. The most important duty of a leader is to have a vision for the business which means the description of what the business will achieve in the mid-term and long-term future and also states the future goals of a business. Leaders also develop skills for the employees which help to become motivated. Managers work in the procedure, look for better environment and attempt to determine issues rapidly. Managers understand the importance of the issues now and again. On the other hand, leaders lack the structure and are willing to postpone conclusion. Zalenznik (2014) stated that the business leaders work the same way as specialist and managers are compared with researchers and other inventive masterminds. The above duties show that the difference between managers and leaders exist.


There are main key differences between managers and leaders to be discussed. Managers make rules that are to be followed however a good leader will bend or break the rules to make the people feel much more comfortable. Manager’s actions are usually reactive and the leader’s reactions are usually proactive (Nayar, 2013). A manager requires people working efficiently at different levels of the organization or department. A manager may not be a hero or a genius but has to be intelligent, analytical, hard work, persistence and most important of all tolerance (Algahtani, 2014). A leader is a person who must get control of himself in order to control others. Many people, however, feel that people who are great in drama or politics are suitable to take up a leader’s position. Managers usually have short-term plans for benefits of the organization’s, while leaders try to aim for long-term which ensures that the employees also develop. Managers have tendencies to focus on the result of the effort put in while a leader always sees what the people and the organization have achieved (Zalezneik, 2004).


To conclude, many types of research have shown above that managers and leaders are very different from each other. According to (Lunenburg, 2011) an organization must have both leaders and managers in order to achieve maximum efficiency. Leaders are the ones that stand up and take the responsibility if something goes wrong whereas managers will just step back and only take credit if something good happens in a company. Leaders always try to improve on the actions and are ambitious. On the contrary, managers are a bureaucrat which means that the only care or responsibility is taken about the results and improvement is not made if something goes wrong with a product. To summaries by saying that both leaders and managers are different but if managers bring good management skills and leaders bring good leadership skills than an organization may grow. The evidence of this study suggests that leaders are a lot different than managers with the above-mentioned arguments. However further research must be done for future in order to differentiate between leaders and managers.


Algahtani, A. (2014) ‘Are Leadership and Management Different?’, A Review journal of Management Policies and Practices, September, vol. 2, p. 71-82.

Plucknette, D. (2014) ‘4 differences between managers and leaders’, in focus, vol. 68, December, p.16-18

Lunenburg, F.C (2011) ‘Leadership versus Management: A Key Distinction—At Least in theory’, International Journal of Management, Business and Administration, vol. 14, pp.1-4.

Nayar, V. (2013). ‘Three differences between managers and leaders.’ Harvard Business Review, August. Available from:, (2015). Management vs. Leadership: The Difference Between a Manager & Leader - Video & Lesson Transcript | [Online] Available at:

Zalezneik, A. (2004) ‘Managers and Leaders: Are they really different?’ Harvard Business Review, January. Available from:

Cast your vote for Leadership

© 2018 Waleed Ahmed


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