28 Oct , 18

Managers vs. Leaders

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Managers vs. Leaders: What Separates the Two?

I have always been fascinated by this topic for a variety of reasons, largely because I spent over 20 years in both military and paramilitary organizations.

We’ve all known and been forced to work with managers, people who order us around and expect us to obey. But when we find ourselves lucky enough to work with a leader, someone who actually encourages you to perform better and to innovate, it can make all the difference in the world!

Want to be a leader without falling into the pitfalls of “boss-hood”? Here are some of the things that set leaders and bosses apart:

Work vs. People

Managers tend to be focused on the work, on the projects or assignments that must be completed throughout the day, week, or month. Leaders, on the other hand, focus on the people that work with them.

They still keep the work in mind, but their main priority is to ensure that people are encouraged, motivated, inspired, stimulated intellectually and creatively, and empowered as much as possible. That people-focus is what makes them so much better at encouraging others to get the job done.

Command vs. Lead

A manager will tell you, “Go, do that!” A leader will say, “Come, let’s do this.”

The difference is subtle, but it can be a huge motivator to find that your superior is in the trenches and grinding alongside you. When you know they’re pulling the load with you, it can make it much easier to pull. 

Answers vs. Solutions

When a manager finds a problem, he wants to know whose fault the problem is and how it happened. A leader, on the other hand, cares more about the solution to the problem. Blame and responsibility are secondary—what matters most is that the problem gets taken care of and everything gets back on track.

Leaders don’t just demand an answer or expect their subordinates to come up with a solution; they’ll dive in and help to figure it out. They may encourage their employees to think outside the box to solve those challenges, but when the time comes, they’ll be right there working to find the best possible outcome alongside you.

Expected Results vs. Generous Praise

With a manager, they know what your job is and what they can reasonably expect from you. Therefore, when you accomplish the tasks they set to you, they don’t think you expect or deserve praise because you’re “just doing your job”.

LeadersLeaders, on the other hand, know the value of giving generous praise. Even if it’s “just your job”, they’ll still go out of their way to let you know how much you are appreciated. Praise and appreciation can go a long way toward boosting morale, which leaders know will increase workplace productivity. But it also makes for much happier people—and leaders are all about the people!

Control vs. Trust

A lot of managers need to feel in control, to have their finger in every pie, and to keep a close eye on their employees to make sure their orders are getting carried out. Leaders, on the other hand, place their trust in the people working with them. Once they’ve divided up the work and everyone knows their role to play, the leader will let them handle it without trying to control or micro-manage every situation.

Yes, this will sometimes lead to setbacks and delays when people fail to live up to your expectations as a leader. That’s when it’s imperative that you have safeguards and fallbacks in place so you can make up the missing work. But, by proving that you trust people, you give them far more incentive to work and actually follow through on their tasks than you would by riding their backs.

Power vs. Influence

Managers are usually trying to find ways to increase their power in the company, to advance their position, or to establish a clear pecking order over their fellow bosses and subordinates. Leaders, on the other hand, are all about the influence. Their main goal is to encourage, inspire, motivate, and help the people in their company—not just their direct subordinates, but everyone in the company. That influence will get you much farther than any amount of power ever could.

Criticism vs. Encouragement

bad managerThere comes a time in everyone’s life when they have to give constructive criticism on an employee’s sub-par performance. Bosses tend to be critical, citing times and examples when the employee failed to meet their standards or do their work. Overall, the whole affair tends to have a negative connotation.

Leaders, on the other hand, will lace their constructive criticism with a healthy dose of encouragement. They will say what needs to be said in order to help their employees improve, but they won’t only heap on the criticism. They will make sure that the person walks away feeling hopeful that they actually can do better, and that they have the leader’s faith in their abilities and value.

Perceiving vs. Creating Value

Bosses look for how much value each person can provide to them: the amount of work they can get done, the effectiveness of their skills for a specific project, their prestige in the company, and more. They look at people as chunks of “value” to be analyzed and quantified.

Leaders, however, look to create value in every member of their team, everyone in the company! They look for ways to help people do more, be more, and go farther. Ultimately, that creates far more high-value employees.

Favouritism vs. Equality 

Bosses tend to have their “favourite” employee or subordinate, the person that they like, work well with and can count on. Leaders, however, try to give everyone a fair shake and equal opportunity. They will also have the ones they know best and like most, but that won’t stop them from working with everyone. Personal preferences won’t affect the leader’s team dynamic, and everyone will feel like they’re getting the same amount of focus and attention from the leader. 

What are you: a boss that gives orders, or a leader that people actually follow? Do you push or do you pull?  The choice is yours!


Todd Lamb is one world's most trusted sources of Health and Fitness information and programming. He has dedicated his life to the service of others having served as a member of the Royal Canadian Regiment in the Special Service Force and as 17 year veteran Police Officer with 10 years on SWAT and 4 as a Team Leader. Todd is dedicated to transforming the lives of 1,000,000 men through honest science based information backed up with years of practical experience in Tactical Operations. Todd is a Best Selling Author of multiple best selling fitness programs and the book STAND APART

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4 thoughts on “Managers vs. Leaders

  1. Cherie

    Thanks for sharing this article, Todd. It always helps to be reminded and refocused on something so important. I appreciate what you are doing. Thank you.

  2. Diann sivley

    Having been in this type of employment I wish my boss had read this. It makes remarkable sense and is is very practical!, Thank you!!

    1. Todd Post author

      It always seems so easy, yet we seem to be stuck on this gerbil wheel and continue to perpetuate the same behaviors. I would be an amazing human evolution if we could let egos go and put people first.


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