Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?


There are many differences between Leadership & Management, in fact, they have far more differences than similarities, they do, however, overlap in many areas and indeed, must, if you wish to be successful. An effective leader who spearheads their group of followers towards their own vision also must have good management skills, without these skills he will find it very difficult to control the myriad of things that become necessary to implement any changes. “While all Leaders are Managers, not all Managers are Leaders”.

(Tucker, 2013, Leadership at the Crossroads). Very often the vision can be the easy part, making it actually happen is another story entirely.

In his book, (The Inspirational Leader, 2008) John Adair says that you can be appointed as a manager, but you are not a leader until your appointment has been ratified in the hearts and minds of those involved. Gandhi was loved and adored by his followers, this made him a truly inspirational leader. The opposite almost was true of Prime Minister Theresa May, by trying to please everyone she ended up being almost despised by everyone, hence the failure to hold her position.

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James Scouller has a most interesting viewpoint in which he suggests Leadership & Management are both similar and different. ‘Leadership is more about change, inspiration, setting the purpose and direction, and building the enthusiasm, unity, and ‘staying-power’ for the journey ahead. Management is less about change, and more about stability and making the best use of resources to get things done… But here is the key point: leadership and management are not separate.

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And they are not necessarily done by different people. It’s not a case of, ‘You are either a manager or a leader’. Leadership and management overlap…’ (Scouller, J., 2000. The Three Levels of Leadership)

What Is the Definition of a Manager?

The noun “manager” comes from the verb “to manage” which came to the United Kingdom in around 1560. It came from the Italian word maneggieare meaning “to handle” or “to control a horse”. The Italian word came from the Latin noun manus meaning “hand”. The English word was also influenced by the French word manège meaning “horsemanship”.

A manager is a person who is responsible for a part of a company, i.e., they manage the company. Managers may be in charge of a department and the people who work in it. In some cases, the manager is in charge of the whole business. A manager is a person who exercises managerial functions primarily. They should have the power to hire, fire, discipline, do performance appraisals, and monitor attendance. They should also have the power to approve overtime, and authorize vacations. The Manager’s duties also include managing employees or a section of the company on a day-to-day basis. (Market Business News, 2019)

A good example is a traditional Bank manager, whilst he has the empowerment to ensure the successful running of his individual branch, he does not hold any influence to the running of other branches, nor does he have any say in the vision or future of the bank as a whole, although he may have some input.

What Is the Definition of a Leader?

“A person or thing that holds a dominant or superior position within its field, and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others.” (, 2019) When I think of what a greater leader is to me, I think of someone who has the ability to successfully instil their vision into others, someone who is a real people-person, someone who can see a vision of where they want the company to be, even if times are hard, someone who inspires others to make the visions come into fruition.

Good examples of leaders in history include the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Donald Trump, Nelson Mandela & Jesus. While not always liked due to the tough decisions they inevitably make along the journey, it cannot be disputed that they are truly great leaders. There are also fictional examples such as Frodo in J.R.R. Tolkien’s’ Lord of the Rings. Although Frodo starts out as such an unimportant and unlikely leader, he soon proves his natural leadership abilities by gaining followers from unlikely sources and successfully completing his dangerous and difficult mission. This success would have been highly unlikely had he not been such an influential leader.

In an interview with CBS correspondent Mike Wallace, Ronald Reagan said that “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things” (Reagan R, 2004). In my opinion, this is, without a doubt, a statement that describes a true leader perfectly. A prime example of this being Emily Pankhurst, who inspired women enough to campaign so passionately that they successfully achieve the vote in such a male-dominated time.

It seems that managers, although carrying out the nuts and bolts of the work are not remembered and revered in the same way as leaders do. Without their work behind the scenes would the vision have come to fruition? They are the unsung heroes, how many famous managers can you name?

Analysis of Different Styles of Leaders

In the late 1930’s Kurt Lewin developed his Three Styles model. Whilst he also matched leadership styles to situations, he also suggested the benefits of changing the style of ones leadership to suit the changing face of the business. This way depending on the differing followers and situations, the best leadership style would bring about the best results

Along with his group of researchers, psychologist Lewin identified and placed leaders into Authoritarian (Autocratic), Participative (Democratic) and Delegative (Laissez-Faire).

Authoritarian leaders provide clear expectations of what, when, and how things should be done with little input, abuse can come across as bossy and like a dictator.

Lewin is of the opinion that Participative is most effective. This type of leader offers guidance but also participates and allows input from other members. Researchers found that although less productive, contributions were of a much higher quality. They also are more motivated than under other styles.

The least productive were those under delegative leadership. They were also more demanding, need more guidance and lack in co-operation. It was found that this led to a lack of motivation. (Lewin, Lippitt and White, 1939)

Examples of Types of Leaders

  • Authoritarian (Autocratic) – Alan Sugar, Donald Trump
  • Participative (Democratic) – George Washington, Martin Luther King
  • Delegative (Laissez-Faire) – Richard Branson, Queen Victoria

Steve Jobs is a textbook example of how and why changes of leadership style work. In the mid-1990’s cutthroat time, Apple survived because Steve Jobs learned how to adapt. He became a democratic/participative leader. Jobs started out as a charismatic/laissez-faire leader, and Apple soared. Then he became an autocratic leader, and Apple’s board of directors requested his resignation.

When he returned to Apple more than 10 years later, Jobs combined several leadership styles and added democratic/participative to his repertoire. (St. Thomas University Online, 2018).

Lewin’s research was most influential and further research later on by several other scientists went on to identify more specific types

In his Path-Goal theory, Robert House matches four sets of workplace & follower characteristics to four different styles of leadership. He suggests that leaders can and should vary their leadership style by varying his or mindset and behaviour to suit. By using the recommended style, leaders will be able to encourage followers to support his suggestions. This, of course, assumes that the leader has the ability to do just that.

He describes the four main styles as follows

  • Directive – The leader informs her followers on what is expected of them, such as telling them what to do, how to perform a task, and scheduling and coordinating work. It is most effective when people are unsure about the task or when there is a lot of uncertainty within the environment
  • Supportive – The leader makes work pleasant for the workers by showing concern for them and by being friendly and approachable. It is most effective in situations in which tasks and relationships are physically or psychologically challenging.
  • Participative – The leader consults with his followers before making a decision on how to proceed. It is most effective when subordinates are highly trained and involved in their work.
  • Achievement-oriented – The leader sets challenging goals for her followers, expects them to perform at their highest level, and shows confidence in their ability to meet this expectation. It is most effective in professional work environments, such as technical, scientific; or achievement environments, such as sales. (House, R.J. and Mitchell, T.R., 1975)

In my opinion, a supportive or participative leader would empower and motivate staff more than the other types. Directive lacks empowerment for followers to make decisions for themselves, Achievement-oriented can lead to an imbalance in home/work life. The character portrayed by Adam Sandler in the 2006 Sony production “Click” is a prime example of how easy it can be to lose your home/work balance without even really noticing it. (IMDb, 2019)

  • Directive – Abraham Lincoln
  • Supportive – Richard Branson
  • Participative – Donald Trump
  • Achievement-oriented – Alan Sugar in The Apprentice


What are management and leadership? Are they similar or are they distinctly different? I am of the opinion, like many others, that they overlap in many areas both having common factors. Depending on the task at hand, the best results are achieved when the leader’s style is tailored individually to the group, task, or sometimes even the environment. Both leaders and managers must develop their own skills, both professional and personal, in order to be successful and achieve their objectives. It is much harder to do this if you a hierarchical leader, as has been demonstrated in the short time Teresa May as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Although it was “her turn” she failed to earn the trust of her followers, if anything she was a Manager rather than a Leader.

“Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing”

(Bennis and Goldsmith, 2010)

Cited References

  1. Tucker, B. (2013). Leadership at the Crossroads. WestBow Press
  2. House, R.J. and Mitchell, T.R., 1975. Path-goal Theory of Leadership.
  3. Lewin, K., Lippitt, R. and White, R. (1939). Patterns of aggressive behavior in experimentally created ‘Social Climates’.
  4. Market Business News. (2019). What is a manager? Definition and meaning – Market Business News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Jun. 2019].
  5. (2019). How has this term impacted your life?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Jun. 2019].
  6. (Reagan R, 2004, 60 minutes interview (2019). How has this term impacted your life?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Jun. 2019].
  7. IMDb. (2019). Click (2006) – IMDb. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Jun. 2019].
  8. St. Thomas University Online. (2018). What is Democratic/Participative Leadership?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Jun. 2019].
  9. Bennis, W. and Goldsmith, J. (2010). Learning to lead. New York, NY: Basic Books.

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Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?. (2020, Nov 20). Retrieved from

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