The difference between a leader and a manager

What’s the most important thing to a company’s sustainable success? After considering the standard metrics such as market, the bottom line and a quality product, the majority would likely say it’s leadership. There is a graveyard of companies whose main downfall is the quality of their leaders. Not only the leader at the top but the leaders of teams within the organisation.

great leader

So, if we all know this, why do companies pay such little heed to its importance?

I have worked for good leaders, shit leaders and great leaders, and the distinctions between them all are vast.

Good leaders do alright, but they don’t really move the dial much. They make their way through because their team has a few good players, but they can’t take the team and people to a higher level. They tend just to be good managers. And yes, there is a huge difference between a leader and a manager.

Let me break it down…


  • Gives direction
  • Has subordinates
  • Holds authority
  • Tells you what
  • Has good ideas
  • Reacts to change
  • Tries to be hero
  • Exercises power


  • Asks questions
  • Has followers
  • Is motivational
  • Shows you how
  • Actions good ideas
  • Creates change
  • Makes heroes
  • Develops power

A manager tends to focus on controlling resources and optimising processes, while a leader focuses on inspiring and empowering people to work together towards a common goal.

Shit leaders – well, we know about the unskilled skilled, siloed, and the “it’s all about me” type.

Great leaders are where the rubber hits the road.

These leaders take companies to another level through high-performing people and teams.

Great leaders possess five key elements:

  • Strong character attributes (the #1 element). If people don’t trust you, they won’t support you.
  • Fantastic interpersonal skills.
  • The ability to implement change effectively.
  • A core set of capabilities.
  • The ability to get everyone to focus on results.

One of the most excellent benefits of having a great leader people trust is that it drives the engagement of employees to the highest levels. Refer to my article on employee engagement if you want to know more about what this means.

*Having a high-performing team drives employee engagement even higher, but it starts with a trusted leader.

But great leaders are not born. A person may have some attributes that can give them a head start, but they will just be good leaders at best.

Great leaders are created!

To be a great leader, it’s essential to treat leadership as a profession and strive to acquire the necessary skills. As a leader, never stop improving and always aim to be the best version of yourself.

Everyone intuitively knows that great leadership makes a difference. Yet, there is virtually no investment into making them great. Ironic, isn’t it?

It’s a common belief that we have great leaders, or that we ourselves are great leaders. But do we have the courage to put ourselves to the test and take an authentic leadership 360-degree survey? The truth is that even the greatest leaders have room for improvement. One fatal flaw of a leader is their reluctance to learn and grow. The opportunity to grow and be better must be embraced.

Let me know here if you want to challenge yourself to be better with a 360 leadership diagnostic and I will arrange things for you.

If you don’t know where to begin, want to talk through something, or have a specific question but are not sure who to address it to, fill in the form, and we’ll get back to you within two working days.

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