Both bring value to their employers and themselves, but is one really better than the other?
People often define the difference in simple terms. Managers have subordinates, while leaders have followers. Others believe that managers focus on stability and consistency, while leaders target change.
A slightly different picture painted by some experts describes managers as being more concerned with formal authority than leaders, who depend on personal charisma to achieve success. In the critical decision area, some believe that managers "make" decisions and leaders "facilitate" decisions.
The most telling distinction involves their perceived concentrations. Widely held beliefs (usually more feeling than scientific) contend that managers primarily focus on "work," the project or objective at hand, while leaders focus on "people," concentrating on motivating the "team" or individuals to achieve high performance.
The best managers and leaders both achieve goals and objectives consistently. There remains little difference in the quality of results. The real difference is in technique and focus.
So should you focus on becoming a manager or a leader? Ask yourself the following:
1) Do I naturally focus on the job at hand or the people who need to complete the project?
2) Am I more comfortable at completing a puzzle than designing one?
3) At my workplace, do I seek out risk and challenge or comfort and control?
4) How do I view rules? Do I enjoy making or breaking them?
5) Do I like expressing passion or do I prefer exercising control?
The most difficult question: Can you be a manager AND a leader? The answer is yes. These roles are not mutually exclusive, but focus and time management should be massaged to learn and fill both roles.
Managers, focusing primarily on work, should allocate more time to the human element and building relationships. Leaders should reallocate additional time to the work details (memos, report evaluation, correspondence, and planning activities) they often discount. This reallocation can become a perfect balance of manager and leader to achieve goals and objectives.
Some leadership qualities are often the result of your DNA as much as your intellect and dedication. While the oft used phrase, "leaders are born, not made," has proven only selectively correct, some leadership traits are more difficult to learn if your personality is in conflict.
If you are a natural leader, you can learn and perfect effective manager skills through study and experience. Don't become concerned if you're new to the workforce or considering changing professions or industries. First, everyone needs to develop managerial and leadership skills, as will you when given the opportunity. Second, learned management and leadership skills are usually transferable to any industry.
Whether you become a manager or a leader, both typically enjoy challenging and profitable careers.