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By Marian Evans – , an award-winning Entrepreneur, UK Business & Career Coach and Founder of Elevate BC

A common misnomer I’ve found in the business world is that good leadership and management are one and the same thing. People often believe that managers must be great leaders and leaders are all excellent managers. However, from first-hand experience, I know that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

The reality is that while good leaders and managers share many of the same qualities, there are also some significant and fundamental differences between the two. Businesses need good managers and leaders to succeed, but is it possible for one person to possess the mindset, characteristics and skills to be competent in these two different disciplines?

I’m going to delve into my experience as a business and leadership coach to explore what I think makes an effective manager and leader. I’ll also discuss some of the differences between them and whether it’s possible to excel at both. 

Leaders and managers: Who are they and what do they do?


A manager is a member of an organisation who is responsible for carrying out the four main functions of management: planning, organising, controlling and leading. Their primary aim is to organise their teams to drive the business towards its goals and objectives.

Although leadership is a management function, that doesn’t automatically make all managers good leaders. Some managers have poor leadership skills and employees only do what’s asked of them because they have to rather than being influenced, engaged or inspired. 


Unlike managers who hold a position of authority in an organisation, a leader can be anyone who inspires and influences others with their behaviour, personality and passion. 

Leaders are typically invested in their work and are committed to tasks and projects. They also have an interest in their followers and work with them to help them reach their professional goals, which may not necessarily align with the goals of the organisation. 

The key differences between managers and leaders

As we’ll see, it’s possible to be an effective leader and manager at the same time. However, it’s also the case that a great leader will not always necessarily be a good manager and vice versa. That’s due to the key differences between the two roles. 

Leaders drive the vision and managers help them achieve it

Leaders ask the ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions, while managers focus on the ‘how and ‘when’. Leaders tend to be ideas people. They look to the future, identify opportunities and have a clear vision of where they want the business to be. They then rely on the skills of managers to implement the processes that help them get there. 

Leadership is a quality, management is a position

‘Management’ is a job title. It brings with it authority, a set of responsibilities and a job description. ‘Leadership’ is a quality that workers at every level of the organisation, including managers, can possess. It can be learned but it cannot be earned via a promotion. Regardless of your title or position, if you behave in such a way that inspires and encourages others, you are a leader. 

Leaders inspire and managers control

When it comes to how they lead people, a manager typically relies on control to get the job done. They understand their employees well and use that knowledge to bring out their best. Leaders, on the other hand, inspire loyalty and trust. Their actions set the pace and tempo for the rest of the group, which drives employees to do their best.  

Can you be a good leader and manager?

Absolutely, definitively, yes. Being a good manager and leader is a viable concept because although there are some differences, there are also many areas of overlap. Excellent communication skills, problem-solving and decision-making, and change management are all skills that good leaders and managers possess. 

However, it’s also important to acknowledge that you don’t necessarily have to be a good leader and manager to be successful at your job. Both leaders and managers are critical for business success. While the best managers typically possess some leadership skills, you can risk diluting the managerial attributes that come naturally to you if you try too hard to develop skills that don’t necessarily play to your strengths.   

That said, for seasoned and aspiring managers, improving your leadership skills can be beneficial, and it’s never too late to learn. Developing your leadership skills can help you influence others and build greater self-awareness. It can also teach you techniques for delivering feedback, coaching colleagues and overcoming challenges

Becoming a better leader certainly isn’t easy, but it can be a very rewarding part of your professional development if you’re ready to embrace it.  

About Author: 

Marian Evans is a multiple business owner and winner of Inspirational Woman of the Decade (WIB). As well as sitting on several boards Marian has coached and mentored some of the UK’s top leaders. Marian works with ambitious executives through Elevate BC a Consultancy she founded in 2017 to support individuals (and businesses) to maximise their potential. 

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