Leaders and Managers - the Difference


Leaders lead and managers manage.   One would think that with a military background it would be easy to tell the difference, but maybe not so much.   But how do we know?   How do we understand the difference?   Let’s begin by identifying the differences between leadership and management, and include some of the traits most commonly associated with leaders and those of managers. Once established, an understanding of these differences will allow for an understanding of the functions of leaders and managers in an organization.
It is difficult for some to distinguish the differences between leadership and management because effective leaders will at times perform management functions and effective managers will be involved in leading their unit or organization. There are differences, however. Leaders have a long-term vision, and they know where they want to take their organization. Managers, on the other hand, coordinate activities to assure that the leader's vision is realized. In a sense, leaders chart the course and managers navigate it.
A decade ago, James Colvard, renowned author and namesake of the Naval Surface Warfare Center James E. Colvard Award for Leadership, provided some contradictions that truly clarify the differences between leaders and managers: leaders take you to a new place, managers take care of where you are; leaders deal with uncertainty, manager’s deal with complexity; and leaders identify the problems and formulate questions, managers find solutions and answers (Colvard, 2003).
There are plenty of lists of traits and characteristics that have been devised for effective leaders and effective managers. In the United States Marine Corps they build their leadership model upon their own set of traits and characteristics.   One of the best lists however may come from the American Library Association who attempted to collate and summarize leadership traits. They concluded there are seven categories of...