Globalization may have increased market opportunities for companies but it has also increased the intensity of competition. This, in turn, has led to renewed interest in the management concepts of leadership and management. While leaders and managers may or may not perform the same tasks, not everyone understands the similarities and differences between managers and leaders. It is important to understand the differences between leaders and managers because these two roles are not limited to formal work environment only but may also exist in our everyday lives.
As far as similarities between leaders and managers are concerned, both are tasked with the responsibility to manage human and financial resources though the nature and scale of their responsibility may be different. Both managers and leaders seek strategies to improve operations in order to increase organizational profitability. Both managers and leaders engage in tasks such as planning, monitoring and control. Both leaders and managers may also share certain other tasks such as mentoring subordinates and identifying top talent within the organization.
There are some skills that both leaders and managers need to succeed in their respective roles. Such skills include communication and conflict management. Another skill that is growing in importance for both managers and leaders is cross-cultural skills, due to the growing diversity at workplaces.
But the differences between leaders and managers tend to be more than the similarities. First of all, managers are focused on day-to-day operations of the organization whereas leaders are focused on long-term competitive strategies. The leaders develop vision for the entire organization where as managers are responsible for ensuring that organization’s financial and human resources are directed towards achieving the vision presented by the leaders. While the managers are focused on establishing order and adherence to conventional rules, leaders push for disruption and innovation. In other words, managers seek harmony while leaders seek change. Managers mostly rely on formal authority to direct subordinates while leaders inspire subordinates to follow them (WSJ).
The managers are focused on short-term goals such as meeting production and sales targets while the leaders are focused on long-term goals such as market share. The managers are focused on ensuring that the internal operations run smoothly while the leaders monitor the external environment to detect opportunities and threats so that they can be acted upon in a timely fashion.
While managers spend most time at the workplace, leaders spend a significant proportion of time outside workplace such as in meetings with business partners and other external stakeholders. Managers are mostly invisible to those whom they have not dealt with but leaders become the face of the organization and even known to those they have not personally interacted with.
Even though leaders develop competitive strategies, it is managers who carry out those strategies. While managers’ circle of influence is primarily limited to within the organization, the leaders’ circle of influence may extend far beyond the organization as legendary CEOs like Steve Jobs demonstrated. But when managers may mistakes they are primarily accountable to their superiors within the organization but when leaders make mistakes they are accountable to both internal and external stakeholders, being the face of the organization.
It is clear that leaders and managers share certain similarities though the similarities are outnumbered by differences. But despite significant differences, the quality of working relationship between leaders and managers determine the ability of organization to achieve its short-term and long-term goals. In other words, both leaders and managers rely upon each other to do their job well.