Are You a Manager or a Leader? 5 Ways to Tell the Difference

It’s a professional reality that all bosses are not great bosses. Anyone can become a manager, but to become a leader, other behaviors become distinguishing factors. Anyone can report to a manager, but only a leader will have followers. One such distinction is the role that leaders play in individual career development, something that some managers don’t prioritize or ignore altogether.

When it comes to career development, here are five distinguishing factors in separating leaders from managers. If indicators below were on a sliding scale with leader on one end and manager on the polar opposite end, where would you fall?

  1. Leaders see who you can become in the future. Managers can’t see past who you are today.
  2. Leaders know you well enough to link your personal strengths and passions to professional objectives, partnering with you to find continuously improved ways of delivering your work. Managers just tell you to do your job.
  3. Leaders treat career development as one of their most important actions. Managers treat career development as a form that needs to be turned into HR before the end of the year. (Overheard at the coffee pot: “Reviews are coming up. Can you fill this out and get it back to me by Friday?”)
  4. Leaders see your career as a multicourse meal that needs to be prepared in a logical, complementary sequence. The sized of the banquet evolves as your appetite for increased challenges and responsibilities evolves. Managers see your career as a microwave dinner.
  5. Leaders are career counselors. Managers are camp counselors (which is good for camp, but bad for career planning). Leaders are partners in your career, letting you know when you’re veering off track or making a potentially disastrous career decision. They tell you how you’re perceived when you’ve long left the room. They tell you where your field is heading and what skills you’ll need to stay competitive as the landscape changes. Managers take attendance, be sure you’re in your cabin when you’re supposed to be, and leave you to your own devices. Not to say that leaders can’t be hands on—many of the most admired ones are—but the chasm between fostering independence (leaders) versus fostering isolation (managers) is a wide one.

Published December 11, 2013 by Austin Lin

Filed under: Leadership,

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