What is the difference between Manager and Leader ?

The difference between managers and leaders is not easily apparent and the fine line that demarcates the two is not clearly visible to all. And in many situations the line gets blurred so that a manager and a leader often have similar functions.

A manager is a person who coordinates people and resources to get a particular job done. He does not deal with people on an emotional plane. He gives orders and ensures that they are carried out. He makes plans for his subordinates to follow. The authority and position of a manager originates from the company. He uses the authority to ensure that the subordinates follow his orders. This kind of functioning is transactional in nature i.e. it relates to certain specific transactions or jobs. This is other wise known as “work focus” The employees follow him as they are paid a salary and other incentives.

A leader on the other hand is a charismatic person who inspires loyalty and respect from his followers. He usually strives to achieve a lofty aim or goal and obtains the support of followers by the force of his personality or ideology. A major difference between a manager and a leader is in the nature of the relationship. A manager has employees while a leader has followers. A manager elicits obedience from his subordinates with the promise of reward or the threat of punishment while a leader commands obedience voluntarily. Great leaders in history have commanded such adulation and loyalty that followers have obeyed them even to the point of losing their own lives.

In an organization, effective managers can become inspiring leaders when they are able to make people follow them not by the power the organization has given them but by their ideals and principles.

As we had seen earlier, the managerial style of functioning is transactional in nature. It is focused on getting things done. A leader on the other hand, is people oriented. He seeks to attain the goal by enthusing and motivating people. Leaders are accessible and understanding in general. They also tend to have an mystical aura and a larger than life image.

Another difference between the manager and a leader lies in their approach to risk. Managers come from background where everything is in order with relative security and certainty. Hence they are averse to taking risk preferring to go by the “beaten path”. Leaders on the other hand are more accepting of risk and tend to explore ways and means which are new and involve a certain amount of insecurity and risk.