How to Be a Real Leader and Great Manager

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 12.22.00 AMFrom time to time through the years, I’ve written on the difference between leadership and management.

I am revisiting the subject now because it’s not enough to understand that leadership and management are two different things.

I believe that the two are complementary; to be truly effective, you need both.

Of course we do have defined tasks as leaders, and managers have a specific role to play too. But that doesn’t mean that the two functions are easily separated.

People look to managers not just to assign them a task but also to define a purpose for them—something that’s usually a role of leadership.

And managers organize workers not just to maximize efficiency but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results, again showing overlap with leadership.

Here are seven ways that management and leadership roles can complement each other:

1.    Leaders focus on motivating people while managers focus on tasks, systems and structures to provide inspiration.

The success of leaders is measured by the relationships they develop and how they can engage and bond with people. The success of managers, on the other hand, is measured by how well they deal with daily tasks of running the business—budget control, customer service, deadlines, procedures processes. A balance of both is vital to motivating and inspiring people.

2.    Leaders seek to challenge while managers try to maintain the status quo.

Leaders achieve success by consistently and continually challenging so they scale up, move the needle and place themselves ahead of their time. Managers work to keep things the same so they can have the space to grow and take chances. Some may view management as a controlling function, but the managers allow for new things to happen even as they maintain order. Different techniques but similar goals.

3.    Leaders seek to innovate while managers look to copy.

Leaders work in the spheres of innovation and creativity—thinking outside the box, trying new things, taking risks. Managers make sure that the team can consistently repeat what they’ve done well. To maintain overall success, you need to copy with some as a backup when innovation and creativity may fail you.

4.    Leaders take a long-range perspective while managers take a short-term view.

Leaders are oriented to think of the future and assess their plans, visions and goals in terms of where they want to take others. Managers ensure completion of the day-to-day tasks that allow organizations to reach the long-range goals. You can’t aim at the horizon if the stuff at your feet is out of control.

5.    Leaders use emotional intelligence while managers are more concerned with intellect.

Leaders understand the value of emotional intelligence and self-awareness. They develop skills in empathy, motivation and self-control. Managers are more concerned with analytical thinking and technical skills. Of course, teams and organizations need both perspectives to thrive.

6.    Leaders explore opportunities while managers avoid risk.

Leaders know how to seize an opportunity. They’re instinctively able to assess target markets, resources required and the level of risk, and they understand that even if they fail and they face hard times, each experience provides great opportunities. Managers tend to avoid risk. They’re much more concerned with making sure their objectives are met and risk is avoided, but they understand the importance of taking measured risks to scale and innovate.

7.    Leaders inspire trust while the managers rely on control.

Leaders are all about earning trust, building trust and becoming trustworthy, if you are to follow someone into an unknown compelling future, you need to be able to trust and believe in them. Managers are focused on cultivating and maintaining control, making sure everything runs smoothly and according to plan and that nothing deviates off course. Managers believe that by relying on control they can organize people—not just to maximize efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and get results.

As always, there’s a clear difference between real leaders and great managers. But with today’s new methods of business development and the ever-changing climate of our economy, there’s more room than ever for the roles of managers and leaders to complement each other, with a shared goal of respecting, appreciating, and validating those who work hard and bring their best to what they do.

Lead From Within: As leaders and managers, we have to understand that the differences in the two roles allow for the emergence of skills that will make each more successful.

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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, Inc.com, 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 is being released by Portfolio May 2017.

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