In the business environment, it is customary to implicitly attribute the qualities of the “leader” to the “manager”, as if the two concepts were synonymous. Although the two figures are positioned at the same level of the corporate hierarchy, they do not have the same duties and face their work assignments in a very different way. In any case, a company director should possess both management and leadership qualities to be successful in the business world. The current context, in fact, requires skills suitable for the management of a certain corporate structure to make it more stable and structured (manager) and, at the same time, always be ready to innovate, change and adapt to changing working and personal conditions and needs (leader).
So let’s see in detail which are the main differences between these two roles.
- The manager administers, the leader innovates.
The manager follows a certain management model and has the task of structuring, organizing and monitoring the tasks related to the specific job. Therefore, he or she has the task of optimizing the working pattern in which he is inserted, trying to “oil the gears” to make the area under his o her responsibility more productive.
The leader, on the other hand, follows a personal, original model. His or her task is to have a macroscopic view, frame the structure “from above” and, if necessary, modify it to adapt it to the new needs. He is oriented towards solving problems rather than carrying out tasks; work for change!
We can summarize by saying that while the manager answers the questions “how?” and “when?”, the leader, instead, asks “what?” and “why?”.
2. The manager focuses on the structure, the leader on the management of human resources.
The manager organizes the procedures and manages the work flows and loads. His or her focus is on productivity. He/she looks at the personnel with respect to the functions they perform, as cogs in a complex system in which individualities are often ignored. For this reason, his/her role is based on control.
The leader, on the other hand, is focused on human resources, tries to stimulate their motivation, promotes a respectful approach by creating a climate of collaboration, fundamental for team management. He/she supports employees in their difficulties, tries to value their ideas and manages conflicts.
Precisely for this reason, the role of the leader is based on building and promoting relationships of trust.
3. The manager deals with the area of his/her competence, the leader must interact with the different company areas.
The manager, as we have seen, deals with the management of the work structure, oriented towards the execution of specific tasks. This means that he is assigned a specific area of expertise with the task of making it more efficient.
The leader, on the contrary, having a “top” view of the company and being staff-oriented, must be able to interact with all sectors in order to better manage employees and to solve the problems that can be created in the relationship between areas of different competences.
4. A leader is a manager; a manager is not always a leader.
The manager and the leader are two professional figures who are positioned at the same level of the corporate hierarchy, but represent two different ways of carrying out the same role. For this reason a leader, possessing the skills described above, will necessarily also be a manager. Conversely, a manager may not be a leader, as he or she does not necessarily develop those skills that are characteristic of the leader.
This last point highlights the need to integrate two professionals in the same role. Indeed, they are not mutually exclusive but complementary, both necessary for business development and the well-being of employees and managers.
This need has arisen especially in recent years, as a result of the development of the labor market, the overcoming of national borders, the need to compete with many more companies and markets and, last but not least, the greater importance given to the well-being of workers and interpersonal relationships at company level. Based on this progress, scientific research has focused on those transversal skills that every manager should possess (or develop) to also be a good leader and, therefore, to face the new challenges that arise.
The true leader knows how to communicate in a clear and empathic way, he or she knows how to create a climate of collaboration, stimulates creativity and motivation, values people and their abilities … a true leader does not give orders, but acts as a guide for the collaborators.
And what about your boss? How is he or she? A manager or a leader?