Management and leadership skills are often regarded as one and the same to many businesses. While the two inherently share many similar characteristics, they differ in that not all managers are leaders, but all leaders are managers. They are complementary qualities inexorably linked to each other, and any attempt to extricate one from the other is impossible. Whereas the manager exists to plan, organize and coordinate, a leader serves to inspire and motivate. Militarily speaking, a manager is the battlefield general while the leader is the commander-in-chief.
A manager is considered a copy of the leader, responsible for communicating the rules and philosophies of the company to individual employees, and ensuring that they abide by them. For a manager, his or her relationships with employees are determined by a hierarchical management system, and rarely through personal ones. They are responsible for maintaining the day-to-day operations of the company so the cogs of the operation stay well-oiled. Managers are generally more concerned with the quarterly bottom line, and will often base decisions based on these calculations. Good managers are often considered “good soldiers” in that they rarely question the decisions of the higher echelons of the company, and only serve to enforce the execution of its policies.
In contrast, a leader focuses on interpersonal relationships with other important contacts in other companies, as well as promoting promising individuals within the company to foster innovation. A leader bases his or her decisions on reports from department heads to assess the entire company’s situation and future strategies. A true leader will also be willing to ignore the company’s quarterly bottom line for several quarters – much to the chagrin of shareholders – and make investments for a long-range growth perspective. A leader is considered a “fearless innovator” in that he or she challenges the status quo and is unafraid to take high risks in search of high rewards, for customers, employees, and shareholders alike.
It is said that a manager asks “how” and “when”, whereas a leader asks “what” and why”. In many professions, managers and leaders assume the same role. However, if a leader of a business simply manages a company – rather than challenge its true potential – then it will likely fall behind its industry peers. Likewise, if managers overstep their bounds and attempt to revolt against the company, then they may soon find themselves out of the job. In some cases, where micromanagement is essential to maximize efficiency, nurture skills, and keep employees organized, strong managers are an absolute necessity to prevent high turnover rates and the “brain drain” of a skilled workforce. A good leader will also stay in the front line of battle, and be familiar with every aspect of the company, leading through inspiration rather than coercing through hierarchical control. A perfect manager who attains the status of a true leader will be able to lead people effectively and draw on the correct strengths and knowledge of every key individual in the company. Many managers will struggle for their entire careers and never attain this, but a skilled few will evolve into true leaders.