What is the difference between a manager and a leader? They may appear to be the same thing on the surface, but there are crucial differences. The core difference is the way they motivate people to follow them.
Managers, by definition, have people who work under them. Their authority comes from an external source – the company for which they and their subordinates work. Managers tell their workers what to do and the workers comply because they will receive a reward for doing so, usually a salary.
Managers themselves are paid to achieve certain objectives and to do it efficiently. So, in order to do this, they pass on work to their workers. Managers generally try to avoid risk and conflict.
Leaders, on the other hand, do not have subordinates – people who work under them – but rather followers. They have no authority conferred on them by an external source; their followers follow voluntarily.
Telling people what to do, as is the case with managers, will not inspire them to follow you. To follow voluntarily, they have to believe in the leader, and that life-changing benefits will be given by following the leader. Leaders are generally more charismatic people – they have a forcefulness, an enthusiasm, a compelling quality that brings followers to them.
But there are various leadership styles. Some are more forceful. Others work more quietly. But whatever the style, they know how to motivate people to follow their vision. They make their followers feel that they share a bond with them, although leaders also preserve a separation as well.
Also, in contrast with managers, leaders take risks in order to achieve their vision. They see pathways that others avoid as opportunities and challenges to be overcome, and they are willing to break the rules to get there.
Leadership scholar Warren Bennis describes the difference between leaders and mangers in the following way: managers administer, leaders innovate; managers copy, leaders are originals; managers maintain, leaders develop; managers focus on systems, leaders on people; managers rely on control, leaders inspire trust; managers have a short-range view, leaders have long-range perspective; managers ask how and when, leaders ask what and why; managers do a thing right, leaders do the right thing.
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