Leaders Vs Managers: the Difference of Their Roles in the Workplace

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Management and leadership always seem to go hand in hand when one thinks of a supervisory role. Although, if we really look at each individually, we will see that one is more of a delegator as the other is more of an inspirational guide. In order for any business, big or small, to function successfully there needs to be a strong team behind that business with a supervisor who can lead the way. We will look at two different types of supervisors and see how they vary.

When running a business, an owner will find the most success if they are able to combine strong management skills with leadership skills. While a good manager will delegate jobs to those who work for them, a leader will guide the way as the team follows. Managers and leaders each have distinct characteristics that make them stand out from one another. Working under a manager is great for someone who needs a plan and likes to know what to do and when to do it. When having a manager as a supervisor there is less room for new ideas or different ways of doing things.

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A manager knows that the best way to reach a goal is to stay on track in a structured environment. They are confident in their ability to come up with a solid plan and execute it. A manager will make their expectations clear and lay out step by step plans as to how they want certain projects to be done. When working under a manager one will be given specific guidelines and set rules to make sure procedures are seen through in an efficient manner. Lastly, a strong manager will keep open communication between them and their team (Ryan, 2016). It is hard to see what these traits look like in motion, therefore we need to take a look into how they use their strengths in a work environment.

In the workplace we could expect a manger to tell employees directly how to do something properly, they do not want their employees running with an idea and trying to find their own way of doing things. A manager is not a fan of taking risks and they almost always stick to doing things that have proved to work in the past, therefore they create a plan and make sure their whole team understands what is expected of them. Employees working under somebody who exhibits strong management skills will be given the resources they need to do their job and shown where to find guidance if needed. A manager always has clear objectives and lays out a step by step plan on how the goals will be met. In the workplace a manager tends to think short term, they will only stay focused on the goal at hand and is reluctant to take any risks or veer from a plan they know is proven to get positive results. Managers focus on structure and making sure that everything goes as planned (McKale, 2020).

Now as we take a look at leadership we will start to see how a leader differs from a manager in the workplace. To start off, leaders have a tendency to dream big and think outside of the box. They feel that if you can set your mind on something then a unified team can make it happen no matter what obstacles they may face (Ryan, 2016). Working under a leader would be preferred for someone who likes to contribute new ideas and a fresh way of thinking. Leaders welcome open discussion and allow members of their team to contribute more freely than a manager would.

A leader will demonstrate honesty and integrity in any decision that they make. They have the traits and the personality of someone others trust and are willing to follow. Having a vision is very important to a leader, they see where they want to go and will inspire others to see it as well. A leader has the characteristics that allow them to challenge themselves along with those around them. Leaders like to dream big and keep people inspired. These are strong traits but it is important to see how they fit into the workforce (Bridges, 2020).

Leaders in the workplace strive to sell employees on their vision and ideas, they show them what is to be expected of them. Instead of telling their team step by step what they should be doing, a leader will set the direction and lead by example. Encouragement is a key trait of a leader therefore they always welcome new ideas and leave the door open to new ways of doing things. A leader has vision and is willing to work with new methods in order to accommodate an employee's way of thinking. Instead of a manager who tends to think short term a leader thinks long term and is not afraid of taking risks if it will help reach goals down the road. A good leader is a visionary and tends to be more flexible in the workplace than a manager. This is not to say that they are unorganized or have no structure, they still want to get the results but they are more flexible when it comes to how they get their tasks done (McKale, 2020).

Sometimes the best way to see the differences between similar concepts is with examples. There were many great leaders and managers before us who helped set the tone of what a supervisor should look like. Yes, perhaps some of these traits can already be seen and demonstrated through those around us, however in order to really solidify how these two supervisory styles differ it is nice to look at strong managers and leaders through time.

Henry Ford essentially started car production as we know it today. His management skills soared car culture globally. What Ford had achieved took a lot of vision but it couldn't have grown the way it did without his strong skills as a manager. He needed to set goals and guide his team step by step to make his business what it was. Walt Disney was another strong manager in his time. The ideas that Walt had to create this beautiful world we know as Disney took a lot of vision and he had to take a lot of big risks along the way. It takes a man with strong management skills to bring something as big as Disney into our lives. He was clearly a man with structure and goals along the way. Walt found talented people throughout his life and created a high functioning team that made his dream a reality. These two men had to not only plan through every move they made but they also had to see each of them through on a daily basis and trust their team to get them where they wanted to go (Bridges, 2020).

There are many men and women who followed their dreams and convinced many to see their vision. One example is Mahatma Gandhi, he focused on what people have in common and created a vision for all to live by. Gandhi is a name that everybody knows, he advocated against non-violence and peaceful ways of getting what you want. Another leader we are all familiar with is Martin Luther King Jr. He used gospel as a way to share his beliefs. Martin Luther King Jr's vision was to unify everyone despite their differences. These two men had visions that, especially during their time, seemed very far out of reach but they were still able to put their stamp on society and inspire people to change their way of thinking. They made a huge impact and they continued to try and spread their beliefs of peace and unity (Bridges, 2020).

Both management and leadership are very important in running a successful business of any kind. The structure of working under someone with strong management skills can only get you so far without someone who is willing to think outside the box and create a larger vision. Managers can see any idea or goal through with structured plans and deadlines, whereas leaders encourage those around them to reach for the stars and always bring their ideas to the table. Looking at the different waves that some of the well-known managers and leaders have made in the world shows us that a leader or manager can be successful on their own, however they are always stronger when vision and structure work together.

In the workplace there is generally one person that an individual will report to. Is this person a manager or a leader? Maybe they are both. Whether an individual works better with structure and set ways to do every task or are more of a visionary who does not like all the rules, everything comes together when there is a strong team who can communicate with each other. The role of a manager and a leader is to make sure everyone is working with the same end goal in mind. Ultimately a business can only be successful if employees feel valued and know that their voice is being heard, this is something that both a manager and a leader strive to demonstrate.


  1. Bridges, J. (2020, January 7). Leadership vs. Management, What's the Difference? Retrieved from
  2. McKale, L. (2020, January 28). Leaders vs Managers: Which are you? Retrieved from
  3. Ryan, L. (2016, March 28). Management Vs. Leadership: Five Ways They Are Different. Retrieved from

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