Manager or Leader?

There are some key differences between managers and leaders, but great leadership qualities that can be learned, especially if you want to become a high impact leader.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.
manager leader sticky notes

I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

Ralph Nader

In my work I am frequently asked what the difference is between managers and leaders. I believe we all have the capacity to lead and that managers can, and need to be, great leaders. At least those managers that are given the opportunity to display leadership skills in their positions. I’ve seen this called ‘leading from any seat at at the table.’

Some differentiators of leaders at higher levels vs. managers are:

  • Leaders direct strategy and change, managers implement these.
  • Leaders persuade for buy-in, while managers communicate the direction.
  • Leading is more about effectiveness, while managing is about implementing efficiency.
  • The leader has a long-range perspective while a manager has a shorter-range view in accomplishing the work.

Few people are natural born leaders. Leadership qualities can be learned. Here are some of the qualities I think are critical in a high impact leader.

  • Maximizing personal potential. Identify your values and live by them. Find the values that your team shares with each other and live by them. Self-awareness is key.
  • Create a shared vision and focus. Take your team(s) along with you and with their input develop a forward agenda.
  • Be innovative. Being creative alone doesn’t work today. A leader must learn to be innovative.
  • Be a persuasive communicator. A leader must learn to sell the vision they have. You must help others see the vision clearly and be clear and consistent in your communication of the vision.
  • Allow open teamwork. You must enable your followers to fully cooperate and collaborate. Develop and practice a strategy for creating a team of leaders. Share respect.
  • Know you are the motivator and must stay motivated yourself. Remember that what you do is about being in service to those around you. It is fulfillment through contribution.

The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

Ralph Nader

Step into leading and play a Bigger Game in your life…don’t wait…model leadership…the World needs us to do this.

Lead strong!

Written by Pat Obuchowski

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...


    5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

    by Jo Miller

    Communicating the Vision

    by Leatha Ritchie

    4 Way to Go from Manager to Leader

    by Ashley Stahl

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.