What is the key difference between a manager and a leader?

Published by Jacob Flint

What is the key difference between a manager and a leader?

A manager's primary responsibility is to plan, organise, and control resources to achieve specific goals within an organisation. They focus on managing people, processes, and systems to ensure that operations run smoothly and efficiently.

However, a leader's role is to inspire and motivate people to achieve a common goal. They focus on building relationships and fostering a culture of trust and collaboration within an organisation. They are responsible for setting a clear vision and direction, communicating effectively, and empowering others to act.

While there is some overlap between the roles of a manager and a leader, the primary difference is in their approach to achieving organisational objectives. A manager tends to focus on controlling resources and optimising processes, while a leader focuses on inspiring and empowering people to work together towards a common goal.

Understanding the difference between managers and leaders is essential for effective leadership development. By learning how to balance the responsibilities of both roles, individuals can become more effective at leading teams and driving organisational success.

Here at Salford Professional Development (SPD), to celebrate International Leadership Week 2023, we asked one of our expert tutors what they believe is the difference between a manager role and a leadership role, along with the key skills needed to be a successful leader.

We interviewed Martin Corlett-Moss, Marketing Expert and tutor for our Directors Development Programme, Mini MBA in Business Leadership and Digital Marketing Strategy Programmes.

What are the key differences between being a manager and becoming a leader?

Martin explained ‘This is pretty simple to me; a leader is someone who has people who want to follow them. A Manager can manage, can organise, can solve problems, but they can do it in isolation. A leader is judged by the people’s willingness to follow.’

What the 5 most important skills are a leader needs?

  1. An understanding that you don’t ask people to do things you are not willing to do yourself
  2. Being the first one to step up, to be the first into the breech as it were
  3. Empathy - being able to reflect on how what they do affects the people around them
  4. Reflection – being able to reflect on their own ability
  5. Key skill is a recognition that they do not need to be the smartest person in the room, some humbleness, and a willingness to empower people who are better than they are

Who Inspires you within your career?

Martin responded ‘My boss when I was at Volvo – A leader whom I would follow. He learned, developed, and grew as a manager and leader. He was willing to learn from his mistakes, and constantly improve.

Finally, in your opinion what is the best way to achieve leadership and management skills?

Martin ended with ‘from experience, watch and learn from the good and the bad around you. Read, learn, study, constantly study – you must assume you don’t know it all. I learn from people with so much less experience than I have, all the time.’

We at SPD believe continuing professional development is essential for individuals who aspire to become great managers and leaders as it allows them to stay current with the latest trends, technologies, best practices in their field, and develop new skills and knowledge that can help them navigate the challenges of managing and leading people.

We offer a range of Leadership and Management programmes, non-accredited and accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Digital Marketing Institute (DMI). Click here to view available programmes. 

Overall, by investing time in your career growth through professional development programmes, you can become better equipped to lead and manage others effectively, achieve organisational goals, and contribute to your company's or organisation's growth and success.


Martin Corlett-Moss

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