Are You a Leader or a Manager?

by | Mar 20, 2023

The success of any business rests with the people involved with the business. Gone are the days when processes and hierarchies built an efficient business. Successful businesses today know that it is all about people. While developing a strong people-centric brand is becoming the focus for many businesses, leadership roles and skills are being scrutinized more than ever. According to a 2019 report, 77% of organizations report that they’re experiencing a leadership gap.

This gap is usually the result of the management encouraging efficiency over connection. While management gets the work done in the short term, without effective leadership, it leads to a higher rate of dissatisfaction and even attrition in the long term. A great way to bridge this gap is to encourage managers to be better leaders.

A person in a management role is expected to be a good leader but these qualities are neither synonymous nor mutually inclusive. Being a manager and being a leader both require separate skill sets which may or may not be possessed by the same person. And even though popular opinion seems to be that being a leader is more important than being a manager, the truth is that both these roles are critical for the success of a project.

Key Differences Between Managers and Leaders

We have all heard the expression that managers instruct and leaders inspire. While it does have anecdotal value, there is more to both these roles than meets the eye. A good manager is inclined towards following the process while a good leader is only bothered with the outcome.

For the success of a project, both qualities are essential. Of course, we require the results for the work, but following the process is equally important as the process is in place for a reason. Knowing when to focus on the process and when to amend it for the results is the balance that a good manager needs to find in order to become a good leader.


The personality of a manager is more authoritarian than that of a leader. Assuming control of a project and making decisions is what is expected of the manager, whereas listening to the needs and requirements of the team members and making adjustments is what the leaders tend to do. Managers act by the book while leaders are not afraid of taking risks.

Attitude Towards Goals

While managers and leaders are both goal-oriented, traditional managers tend to be more stringent about how the goals are met. For example, a leader may be okay with a part of the team working from home as long as the work is completed but a manager requires his team on-ground for the working hours. Similarly, a manager might be satisfied with the completion of the project but the leader ensures that the project is up to the expected standard.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence does not come with a designation but several studies have shown that EQ is a key factor in terms of effective leadership. So no doubt that a good leader embodies emotional intelligence and knows the right way to respond to difficult situations whereas it is a common complaint among employees that their managers do not seem to care for them.

Team Building Ability

The role of a manager is to ensure that the team functions together. Often managers stop at that. But a leader observes the team dynamic and removes any obstacles from effective collaboration. The leader also understands that he is as much a part of the team as anyone else, whereas managers tend to remain aloof from the team.

Communication Style

Managers often communicate in a formal and detached manner with their subordinates. And while most companies encourage a professional decorum in the workplace, limiting the communication to formalities, reduces the human factor of the culture.
In order for your employees to feel secure and a part of the establishment, they need to connect with each other, the management, as well as the larger organization. The connection takes place when a leader goes beyond the daily emails and chats to communicate in person.

Responses Under Pressure

How a person responds under pressure says a lot about them and this trait is observed by everyone around you. Managers tend to pass on any pressures they may get from clients, superiors, or even just their targets. This is because their primary concern is getting the work done. However, a leader understands that not everyone performs well under pressure and works with his team to ensure that the deadlines are met without stressing out the employees.

The Ideal Project Manager

Being a leader is clearly important but to be the ideal project manager, traits of being a good manager need to be balanced with the traits of being an effective leader. The ideal project manager is not simply a manager without a vision, nor a leader without competence. The key to being an ideal project manager is to incorporate the best of both these roles and switch from being a leader to a manager or vice-versa whenever required.

How to Be a Good Leader As Well As an Efficient Manager?

As far as popular corporate wisdom goes, people agree on the necessity of being a good leader but being a good manager is equally important. In a realistic setting, people don’t just need inspiriation, they need directions, guidelines, and even stringent deadlines. The key is to know when to employ which trait. It may seem like a lot of effort to inspire, as well as instruct, and also to know when to do which. But if you follow some basics, it will come to you naturally.


Planning is key to the success of any enterprise. You cannot earn a million dollars if you don’t plan for financial success. Planning ahead allows you to predict any pitfalls or obstacles that may come your way and find ways to eliminate them in advance. Planning also gives your team a direction to head towards as opposed to mindlessly finishing the given tasks.
As humans, we are wired to organize the world around us. We cannot feel comfortable in the states of anarchy, whether it be in society or our desks. So when the team has a plan, they will work extra hard to achieve the milestones which are preset. Achieving smaller goals also helps employees with their sense of satisfaction and increases their productivity as well as loyalty.


Planning by yourself will only work if you are working by yourself. In order for the plan to be effective, you need to listen to everyone involved in the project. Listening is not only about hearing everyone. Listening requires complete commitment to feedback and inputs. A good project manager needs to be able to listen to their teammates and make the necessary amendments to the plan. Listening is a key tool for collaboration in any project.


Organization is not limited to plans and projects but it also needs to be implemented in terms of a team. When everyone in the team knows their role and feels valued, they will rely on the managers less and offer more in terms of productivity, ideation, and even initiative.
Organizing a team allows managers to ensure that deadlines and targets are met by delegating the responsibility to the subordinates rather than micromanaging every task. You should be able track the status of tasks that you’ve delegated without it being extra work for you. You should invest in a task management tool to organize your project team’s daily workload and keep track of the progress of all tasks with a quick glance.


As humans, we all need to be inspired and motivated in order to achieve our goals. The inspiration can come from all quarters. However, as an ideal project manager, it is your job to inspire your team. According to a recent study, those who are inspired, tend to be more effective at their work and personal goals. Inspiration does not have to be big speeches and motivational videos. Inspiration can come from brainstorming sessions, constructive feedback mechanisms, and also verbal appreciation. Effective leaders know their team well enough to understand what works for whom.

Be Human

Management requires a quality of discipline and heavy-handedness, agreed. But it is important that you do not lose the sight of what you are managing. Project managers handle projects but they are effectively managing the people in the project. The interactions within the team are more pertinent than you would imagine.
Allow for the team members to work at their own pace and time as long as they meet the targets. Be reasonable with overtime or weekend shifts. After all, you don’t want your team members to do a half-hearted job or worse, an ineffective one.


Even in 2020, many organizations encourage competition among employees. While a healthy competitive spirit is not a bad thing. Active competition among peers is linked to a negative cultural effect in the organization culture. Team members need to be working together to chase the same goal, not trying to outperform each other. Competition also tends to elevate stress and the feeling of demotivation among the team members.
As a project manager, you need to ensure that everyone is rewarded for their work sans comparisons. There needs to be a higher focus on collaboration, and you need to lead by example. Collaborating with your team will increase their trust in you and your leadership.

Focus on Results

A result-oriented leadership is often a successful one. However, what does it mean to focus on the results? If you have put efforts in your planning stage, you will have a distinct clarity on what results you are looking for. The outcome of the project needs to be clearly defined and that is what needs to be focused upon.
But simply asking the team to complete a project by the end of the month is not result-oriented leadership. It is okay to relax a few rules like break hours but it is also important to pitch in from time to time and ensure that the project is headed in the right direction. Again, the planning stage comes in handy here. If the larger outcome is broken down into smaller goals which are consistently met, you don’t have to worry about the final outcome. If they are not, you need to direct the team in order to meet the goals and guide them to make the right decisions in future.

The Everyday Implications of Leadership

Project management is often an underappreciated responsibility. While one needs to incorporate the virtues of a leader, a manager, a taskmaster, an organizer, and also an effective team member, it can be all done if you follow the basics of leadership and add your mix of management to it. And despite being a challenge, it also gives you an opportunity to learn, inspire, and be a role model for several people.

Leadership is not only the virtue of managers and corporate leaders. As a project manager, you can employ leadership skills in smaller tasks in order to come to a consensus and take strong decisions. According to a Forbes survey, there is a 93% chance that uninspiring leaders are rated in the bottom 10% for productivity. So it is clearly imperative that leadership development on an organizational level as well as a personal level is crucial for career growth.

The business structures of today are nothing like those present, say a 100 years ago, so we are essentially dealing with a system that it is constantly evolving without a roadmap. The only way to survive as a business or as a professional is to evolve along with the industry. And we all know that embracing change and capitalizing on it is an essential feature of leadership.

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