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Have you ever considered the difference between business leaders and business managers? At a glance, they might seem like the same thing. Both probably direct people who work under them, carry extra responsibilities and have more influence in the overall operations of a business than the average employee. In fact, most business managers are also business leaders. The two terms are not as synonymous as they might initially appear. Overall, the primary differences between leadership and management have to do with the individual’s relationship with their team and how they approach their work.

Operational vs. Coaching

One of the first differences between being a leader and being a manager is that managers are generally more operational, while leaders invest in coaching their employees. Functional responsibilities include talent acquisition, general operation decisions, scheduling, and project management. These are the more technical aspects of business management. On the other hand, leadership in business means investing in your team to coach performance and guide productivity. Leadership is more personal. One person may embody these two roles at different times, and both are critical for business success.

Control vs. Influence

Similarly, managers exhibit more control, while leaders influence those around them. Business managers lean into their authority, setting deadlines and delegating responsibilities. At the same time, leaders influence their team to inspire and motivate them to invest in their work. Depending on the scenario, both approaches can be effective. Additionally, different teams might be motivated more by different methods, so either one can be helpful. In fact, a combination of both might be the best course of action: setting hard deadlines to hold employees accountable while also instilling the value of work in your employees and supporting them throughout their projects. 

Productive vs. Inspirational

Finally, managers tend to be focused on the productive: checking off to-do lists and getting tangible work done. Conversely, leaders tend to be more value-focused, taking the time to inspire their team and think about their business’ mission and vision. Leaders are visionaries, whereas managers are practical.

In the end, the best business managers are also business leaders and vice versa. They are two different mindsets and approaches that are both valuable for moving your business forward and keeping a team in line. Your business needs both structure and vision, support and authority. The challenge is balancing the two, knowing when to invest as a leader, and pushing on as a manager.