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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Difference between Managers and Leaders

When talking about managers people often confuse two terms: a manager and a leader. The difference is pretty simple however.

Management is a job while leadership is an attribute.

You can be promoted to a manager role, but you can’t be promoted to be a leader. To become one you need to work your butt out showing your leadership in the battlefield. You have to inspire people, make them believe they can achieve a goal and motivate them to work harder. Or smarter. Whatever. That’s definitely not enough to tell them “go and get that and better be quick.”

In normal situation managers, who aren’t leaders, usually end their work when they tell their teams what to do. Micromanagers go even further. They tell what and how exactly thing should be done. Anyway they’re barely a kind of task-dealers.

Leaders not only point goals and give out tasks but also encourage people to show their own initiative and creativity. They take decisions when it’s needed and are always ready to face any problem team can encounter. You’d willfully follow the leader while you wouldn’t follow the manager if you didn’t have to. Not that you often have a choice.

Good manager is always a good leader while poor manager is barely a white collar.

in: personal development, team management

7 comments… add one

  • Anonymous December 11, 2008, 6:15 am

    Being between jobs, and thinking over what I liked and had a harder time with at my last job, your text just hit the nail on the head. Makes me see myself and a couple of others old workmates in a new light. One bloke (and founder) that is really likable between 5 and 9, but not vice versa, had a hard time getting himself on top of everyone. People got annoyed, instead of inspired. Sorry for him, and sad for the rest of us.

  • Pawel Brodzinski December 11, 2008, 6:30 am

    Ability to compromise managerial role and personal contacts with team-members is one of the trickiest task for all bosses. Some think it’s not likely to be possible but pesonally I don’t agree.

    Your story is interesting because of change of perspective – a nice guy after hours can’t do a good job as a manager. I must admit I know of at least one C-level executive who suits to the picture. I still blame lack of leadership as a problem though.

  • Jeff Edwards March 19, 2009, 7:37 pm

    There is also the famous statement, “Managers do things right, while leaders do the right things.”

    I have always found leadership relatively easy to detect, but difficult to describe. My observation, however, doesn’t keep me from continually trying to describe it. Thanks for the posting.

  • batman567 June 17, 2009, 1:03 am

    very well put.

    i have the same experience in hiking:-

    the "manager" type is the loudest guy, at the front, reading the maps – trying to be a hike leader.

    a true leader can often be at the back supporting the weaker members, and only comes to the fore in a crisis – e.g. a medical emergency, or life-threatening situation.

    a good leader isn't necessarily the guy with the loudest voice – he is the guy everyone turns to when the going gets tough

  • Pawel Brodzinski June 17, 2009, 5:04 am

    I love the analogy with hiking. Yes, leaders are often quiet. You can do more using your influence than yelling at people. That's what leadership is all about.

  • Jonathan Becher June 21, 2009, 11:49 am

    Unfortunately, there's some evidence that management by yelling seems to work — in that it gets managers noticed and therefore they are judged by other managers as more competent. http://alignment.wordpress.com/2009/05/17/survival-of-the-loudest/

  • Pawel Brodzinski June 22, 2009, 1:15 am


    It works that way when whole work environment is screwed – usually when CEO is a yelling type of person. Then people around CEO tend to behave in the same way. And it goes recursively to lower levels of management.

    On the other hand when a company is managed by people who understand what true leadership is all about there's no "yelling culture" and managers as judged by their competence, not their loudness.

    I believe true leader can survive even in sick environment like the one you describe but it's very tiring and not many are willing to strive in the long run.

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