3 Differences between Managers and Leaders

Although at times it may appear that managers and leaders are similar in terms of how they implement ideas, key differences exist between these two forms of leadership that separate them. The three question test below will help you decide if you have made the shift from managing people to leading them.

Are You Counting Value or Creating Value?

Managers count value – they take count of the work their team has done, report upon their progress and are responsible for keeping them on schedule with the workflow required.

In contrast, leaders create value. They generate value over and above what the team alone is creating, designating tasks saying “I would like you to handle A, while I take care of B”. The leader is as much a value creator as his or her followers are. Leading by example and enabling people are the keystones of action-based leadership.


Princess Diana pays her tributes to Nelson Mandela a few months before her death in 1997. Both Mandela and the Princess are visionary leaders remembered for their global influence.

Do You Have Circles of Influence or Circles of Power?

Managers have subordinates, leaders have followers. Managers create circles of power while leaders create circles of influence.

The quickest way to figure out which one you are doing is to count the number of people outside your reporting hierarchy who come to you for advice. The more that do, the more likely it is that you are perceived to be a leader.

Do You Leading People or Managing Work?

Management consists of controlling a group of people to reach a pre-determined goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward an organization’s success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.

For a moment, consider great leaders in history. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela. All of these men walked shoulder to shoulder with their countrymen and inspired them to believe in their vision and dream. True leaders inspire people to convert their challenges into opportunities, and think beyond their problems to reach a shared goal. Take this article for what it’s worth, but hopefully you can use it to inspire your future actions with your team. You have to decide- do you want to be a leader or a manager? Choose and act accordingly.


Mahatma Gandhi is remembered for his closeness to his people and followers. He spent hours among the people of India, talking to them and sharing his vision.

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