The Difference Between Leaders and Managers

There is a big difference between a leader and manager. 

Both roles are important but they seek to do different things…

Leaders lead people.
Managers manage people.

Leaders set destinations.
Managers navigate the roads to get there.

Leaders cultivate change.
Managers cultivate creating stability.

Leaders inspire.
Managers comfort.

Leaders appeals to the heart.
Managers appeal to the head.

Leaders set direction.
Managers set plans with details.

Leaders work on a system.
Managers are working the system.

Leaders have vision.
Managers are about reaching goals.

Leaders are about effectiveness.
Managers are about efficiency.

Leaders have followers.
Managers have subordinates.

Leaders take ownership.
Managers take responsibility.

Leaders shape culture.
Managers enact culture.

Leaders are proactive.
Managers are reactive.

Leaders accomplish achievements.
Managers accomplish compliance.

Leaders break rules.
Managers make rules.

Leaders use conflict.
Managers avoid conflict.

Leaders set new direction.
Managers go on the existing roads.

Leaders go inward.
Managers work outward.

Leaders are concerned what is right.
Managers are concerned about being right.

As you can see managers and leaders are two different people.

Do organizations need both? YES.

Leadership begins where management ends and smart organizations value both and great organizations work hard to make each a part of their team.



N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. luis moreno

    23. Oct, 2011

    hi.lolly- thanks by all. i am learning. i like too much business.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Bob Farwell

    23. Oct, 2011

    Thank you,

    The tension between leadership and management is real. It is a balancing act for those of us who must assume both roles in our organization. I appreciate the distinctions made between the two and the need for both in successful organizations.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      24. Oct, 2011


      There is tension | conflict | when a leader has to be a manager and when a manager needs to be the leader.

      We need both.


      Reply to this comment
    • Martin Haworth

      08. Oct, 2017

      Bob is right. There is no ‘one or the other’. That’s why a manager’s role can be so challenging. They have to lead as well as ‘manage’ in the definitions above. I think it’s become the norm to equate ‘leadership’ above ‘management’. In my experience, we need a new word that embraces both, others, those in the role get very confused and despondent.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Sultan Ahmed

    23. Oct, 2011

    The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate.
    The manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate.
    Managers have a position of authority!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Owen Marcus

    23. Oct, 2011


    This is great. I was layout the distinctions between leaders and managers the other day. My list wasn’t nearly as thorough as yours.



    Reply to this comment
  5. niki

    24. Oct, 2011

    Everything seems to be O.K with this statements, but how many companies nowadays think this way?

    Reply to this comment
  6. Jon M

    24. Oct, 2011


    A solid comparison. Distintive organizations need to have both leaders and managers working together. It is a tandem effort, which propels initiatives forward in a positive direction.



    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      24. Oct, 2011

      Love this Jon,

      Distintive organizations need to have both leaders and managers working together. It is a tandem effort, which propels initiatives forward in a positive direction.

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for passionate wisdom!

      See you Tuesday at #leadfromwithin as we discuss leadership vs management?


      Reply to this comment
  7. Jim

    24. Oct, 2011


    The “facts’ stated above are (of course) seemingly indisputable. As a person who myself have lead and managed individuals since I was thirteen years old, I can see the value in knowing what the differences in the roll of a leader and a manager “are” but in addition to making an arbitrary list of “normally accepted facts” I think that any learning endeavor should include those facts in some sort of conceptual methodology.

    Let me explain:

    I could make a list of things that are required skills for two seemingly different professions – professions like – let’s say – a carpenter and a plumber.
    On one list I could state the ability to nail two boards together and the ability to read a tape measure.
    On the other list I could state the ability to solder a copper fitting and also the ability to read a tape measure.

    The above is a small example of skills needed for one or the other professions – a carpenter or a plumber. Even in my very small list (2 items in each list), we see that in both lists one of the listed items crosses over to both lists. What if in the plumber’s job descriptions the plumber was not required to read a tape measure. Then the plumber would need a carpenter to measure and mark a pipe before the pipe could be cut.

    That’s one issue we naturally come to once we begin to list facts as job descriptions for one person verses another. Within our list we must be careful that we are not limiting one thing over the other – or one person’s ability over the other.

    But with this that said I must ask – Do you appreciate honesty? I begin my reply with saying that “facts” are arbitrary unless you can include those facts in some sort of conceptual methodology. Yes a carpenter needs to know how to nail two boards together and read a tape measure as a plumber needs to know how to solder two pipes together and read a tape measure. What’s missing in these facts is that these skills when used properly can do something meaningful like building a home. The individual fact based skills are only important in terms of the concept of the home.

    Here-in lies the issues that we find in business today. So many people hold the facts as to how to do jobs A – B and C without any practical sense or knowledge, let alone the experience of pride that is needed to consider the needs of each individual along the growth curve of business. We like to think that all growth is for the good of all but in truth we usually apply a bunch of arbitrary facts to situations that lead us down a path of personal and ecological ruin. Why? It’s easier to drop a bomb and deal with the aftermath than it is to look beyond what we call facts to some larger concept – like the good of all people, not just ourselves.

    What is the difference between a good leader and a good manager? Yes, a good leader sees the destination just like a good manager knows the directions. The best leader knows the destination because he/she has already been there. He or she has already pulled the tape measure and seen the end. The best manager has also measured the distance. From there they stand on the roof top showing everyone else the way home – instead of standing on the ground ordering everyone else up the ladder.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      24. Oct, 2011

      I like your honesty Jim and I most certainly like your passion.
      You bring up some very validate points and I am happy you stopped by to share your thoughts.


      Reply to this comment
  8. Christina Morillo

    24. Oct, 2011

    Fantastic article Lolly. These points are so on the money. A dilemma I see often in the corporate world however is when you are the leader working under a manager with absolutely no leadership qualities, none. Your manager neither appreciates nor respects the “leader” quality within you which ends up feeling like a never ending WAR between both parties. In a “do as I say or you are being negative” environment, how do we continue being leaders without going postal?

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      24. Oct, 2011

      Great points Christina. Love your input. Both of us have seen organizations….. Where either the effective leader doesn’t have a efficient manager or a efficient manager does not have an effective leader.

      The message that I always in trust to situations that you are describing is: Do not worrying so much about what others are or are not providing for you.

      Life is not fair, business is brutal, organizations are big. How do you survive? YOU LEAD FROM WITHIN. it saves you all the time.

      It is the simplest most profound truth.

      Not everyone is ready to hear it.


      Reply to this comment
  9. Lyda Hawes

    24. Oct, 2011

    I like the list and think you capture the essence of the differences, but I find that leaders and leadership are often valued above managers and management and therefore no one ever wants to claim being a manager, even if that is where their skills lie. How do we begin to change perceptions and show that both are important?

    Reply to this comment
  10. David Lapin

    24. Oct, 2011

    Thank you Lolly.
    Perhaps it’s helpful to think of a leader as one who, using his or her personal stature, influences the thoughts, feelings or actions of others. A manager is one who uses his or her positional authority and status to achieve predetermined outcomes through others.

    David Lapin
    Author: Lead By Greatness

    Reply to this comment

    25. Oct, 2011

    HI lolly
    Certainly we need both
    thanks allot.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Roger Pozo

    25. Oct, 2011

    reading your article I see that sometimes I’m leading other manager, need a psychologist?

    Reply to this comment
  13. Luis San Vicente

    25. Oct, 2011

    Right o left brained? everyone of us has the opportunity to make a balance, even we are blessed with one more charged than the other, what prevails is creativity as an inherited value, just o to babies observe how they lead! We say they’re dependent, it’s true, but finally we do what they show us they need, they teach us how to serve and we learn. As growing, kids begin loosing this leadership precious gift, cause we are responsible of inhibiting it, managing them and telling every time do this or do that in such or another way! We must help babies, toddlers & kids to grow without creating paralizing paradigms, so we first need to free our minds!

    Thanks for the forum!

    Luis San Vicente

    Reply to this comment
  14. Chase LeBlanc

    25. Oct, 2011

    Lolly, great post!,

    I have been after breakthrough thinking for many years – if you are a manager you need to be both, leader and manager (Leadagers TM) – you will also be a better leader if you are a successful manager.

    Leader is a “role” and you can be plucked from a pile, groomed, bubble-up naturally, force-fed into it or quite literally, be the last one standing. It is brought into play when one is influencing/ guiding/impacting others. Manager is the “job” of having responsibility for bringing about specific outcomes or overseeing certain activities. You can be a leader without management responsibilities, which is called a figurehead. If you have no other person within your span of influence (let’s say you’re operating a street-cart) then you can manage things without being a leader.

    If you have the job of “manager” which includes supervision of others, then you are expected to show some iota of leadership skills, as it will be “on you” to get the group to pull together (without breaking apart) and to accomplish the tasks set forth. There are many good managers who are bad leaders and many (short-lived) acceptable leaders who are bad managers.

    It is important to make a distinction between the two for illustrative purposes and instruction. Even though common belief holds that they are conjoined twins, they are in fact dizygotic twins. The same mother, but difficult and different skill sets.

    For generations there have been debates about the concise definition of leadership. The truth is — it depends. Leadership definitions are dependent on the team, situation, fate, timing, or definitions of success and most certainly upon the width or height of your travails. Additionally, it depends if you are speaking of leadership in the arena of business, military, science, religion or politics. And, it depends on whether you’re seeking a descriptor of leaders who are edgy or plain-Jane, powerful or powerless, figureheads or headless figures.

    When it comes right down to it, leadership is influence. Yes, most organizations hold high the tangible metric “results” of the system/process/push and pull, but when it comes to people, the influencers at every level are the true leaders.

    Here is the question for leaders/managers – Are you relying strictly upon your job-granted positional authority to herd your fellows, or do you fly a flag that others wish to rally around? In the end, leadership is simply the business of flag flying.

    With that – I intend to suggest “flag flying” as a metaphor for the “things” you provide when one is “in” the role of “being” a leader. It has been my experience that many underestimate the power of “how you are” – which in most “business” cases is equally important to “what you do” — If you empower others and foster an environment of trust and can also get projects done on time, scope and within the budget – what you do, and how you are (both) – travels before and after you. It becomes your “standard” or “flag” – folks are more readily inclined to be attracted by personal/professional “flags” with clear representations of past success (competence & completion) and future success (character & conditions) –

    Reply to this comment
  15. Dino

    26. Oct, 2011

    Fantastic Lolly :)) Thxs ..

    Reply to this comment
  16. Phillip Diprose

    17. Dec, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lolly, which I enjoyed reading.

    A bit of context for my comments that follow … I worked for a major corporate for 25 years (last 10 in senior management), did the ‘tree change’ thing into regenerative land management 6 years ago (we apply holistic planned grazing with our mob of sheep on our farm, and for a while I was also doing business development with dozen educators delivering a framework for land managers on holistic decision making), and I’m presently working on a consulting basis for our local government authority engaging the community and developing and writing a 10 year community strategic plan.

    Managers and leaders can also have a broader role in natural systems and processes … not just working with people.

    I like to think of leading and managing as two complimentary activities at either end of a spectrum – with uncertainty at one end and certainty at the other. Leaders find a way (often with the help and input of many) through uncertain territory and managers follow the map. In some ways it is like the difference between shepherds (quietly out the front of the mob showing it the way forward … with the mob happily following in an environment of trust) and sheep herders (at the rear pushing and prodding).

    With our farm we’ve defined how we want the place to look and work in the future, and are applying certain principles to make sure we are heading in the direction we want. A few examples from our future goal are: ‘a place people want to visit’, ‘optimising biodiversity in the broader landscape’, ‘maximising ground cover’, ‘freedom’, ‘financially secure’. Defining the ‘future / landscape’ is all about leadership and vision. Applying the principles is where management kicks in … although working with nature is full of surprises and uncertainty!

    It’s been quite a challenge defining the ‘vision statement’ for the local community. I created one that was a distillation of all of the input from around 360 people who participated in providing input via an array of mechanisms. I was pretty chuffed with it (excited actually) and ran it past 8 different community members spread geographically across our local area. Their response was similarly enthusiastic – with one person actually saying “That’s exactly the type of place I’d like to live”. When I showed what I’d drafted to a few of the people who have responsibility for endorsing the final plan it became clear that they were / are more of management mindsets. What I’d drafted was visionary and inspiring but it turns out did not “fit the mould (rules)” of how they thought a vision statement should read. So I’ve done a redraft which will pass the requirement but it has lost some of the elements of passion and excitement. My point in this last statement is that leadership tends to involve a lot more emotion than management … which you’ve covered via the comparison between heart and mind.

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  17. Lynda Quintero-Davids

    08. Nov, 2013

    Thanks for posting. Just shared with my husband. He works at JCP and his title was changed from Store Manager to Store Leader, after so many years of Store Manager being the goal… when actually Leader is better 🙂


    Reply to this comment
  18. Jerry

    14. Feb, 2017

    Great information Lolly! I enjoyed reading your differences between a leader and a manager Jim analogy was interesting my thoughts to his comment between a Carpender and a plumber in my mind makes no difference as to who can read a tape measure sometimes it’s not about reading the tape measure it’s about getting the material cut at the exact length you need it and sometimes one doesn’t have to be able to read a tape measure to do that there’s other ways of performing the task but when it’s all said and done the object that needed to be cut to a specific length was performed and could happen without a tape measure But still Jim made some good points I loved your article !

    Reply to this comment
  19. Dick Wagner

    28. Feb, 2017

    I use twitter daily to keep my name out there. It’s often a challenge to come up with the right message and tone. You help me wildly achieve this. I often take snippets of your ideas and tweet them to very positive feedback. Thanks so much for you brilliant thinking and writing.

    Reply to this comment
  20. Maxwell Leonard

    28. Feb, 2017


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  21. Rakesh Kanwaria

    16. Apr, 2018

    Great job,
    Love to read your blog

    Reply to this comment
  22. Osman Abdel-Rahman

    26. Jun, 2019

    Your talk about the difference between Leaders and Managers as if they are two “discrete” persons in an organization. How’s that?

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      02. Jul, 2019

      They are not two discrete persona’s but for the sake of understanding roles, they are, both need to cross over into each other.

      Reply to this comment

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