A manager is someone whose responsibility is to plan and direct the work of a group, assess and monitor progress and take corrective action if and when required. This is often an entry level management role and a stepping stone to greater things. Alternatively, a leader is a person who leads others, but more importantly is a person with vision, commitment to achieve that vision, and the skills and drive to make it happen.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29.18
Leadership and management fit hand in glove; they are not only complementary but necessary, with the manager in charge of planning, organisation and coordination on a day to day and short term basis. The leader inspires and motivates, innovates and inspires trust, with their eye on the long term whilst maintaining the overall vision.
“Managers want authority. Leaders take responsibility. We need both. But we have to be careful not to confuse them. And it helps to remember that leaders are scarce and therefore more valuable.”
– Seth Godin
The greatest difference between the two is the way leaders and managers motivate the people in their teams, setting the tone for other areas of their roles and practices. And as Seth Godin said, managers have authority, usually at specific levels as designated by their company or employer. The people in their teams are subordinates and in most cases do as they are told in return for a salary. Leaders usually have subordinates but only because they are also managers, yet they are more inclined to give up authoritarian control because to lead means to have followers, and this is a willing and voluntary activity. Leaders take risks as well as responsibility.
“You manage things, you lead people.” – Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
Is Seth Godin accurate in his statement that leaders are in less abundance than managers, and are more valuable as a result? This will depend if you believe leaders are born or made, or to what extent you agree genetics and disposition play a part in natural leadership. Many of the foundation leadership skills such as extroversion, openness to new experiences, general intelligence and emotional stability are inherent and not learned so to this extent at least Seth got it right.
Leadership skills that can be learned or enhanced include written and oral communication skills, social skills and cultural intelligence as well as the confidence or ‘charisma’ required to inspire and motivate others.
Whether the generally recognised skills of your typical leader are naturally occurring or have been studied and developed, it is only through practice and experience that they become habit forming and at their most effective.
Whatever your beliefs, and if you agree with Seth Godin or not, it is clear that leaders and managers are both highly regarded and equally necessary. Neither is better than the other, and a business or company requires both to be successful. Any attempts to separate the two are not only futile but also detrimental to future ongoing success.