MANAGER or LEADER: What does this mean today?

In this article, we will look at the main difference between what it means to be a manager or a leader and how this fits in with today’s organisations. You will walk away understanding whether you need to make a change within your organisation or have validation for what you have already implemented.

Approximate Reading Time: 12 Minutes


For many, they define themselves by the title on their business card or position description rather than the responsibilities, accountabilities, expectations and deliverables they bring or are required bring to the role. For many, they are focused on the title of their role but fail to deliver on the expectations the company has of them. 

If we look at what it means to be a manager or leader, we will be able to clarify what it means in today’s business environment to be successful at it.

Lets look at some definitions to put some perspective on this:

Management: The process of dealing with or controlling things or people. (Ref:

Manager: A person responsible for controlling or administering an organisation or group of staff. (Ref:

Leadership: The action of leading a group of people or an organisation, or the ability to do this. (Ref:

Leader: The person who leads or commands a group, organisation, or country. (Ref:

In the context of business, management or being a manager is associated with controlling or administering a function or people to deliver a result.

Leadership or being a leader is more about being capable of achieving results by engaging , valuing and focusing on the people and their contribution. 

In my experience, there are typically three categories, those being:

  1. Manager
  2. Leader 
  3. Neither


ANBA SOLUTIONSMany have the ability to be great managers, because in my opinion it is a function which can be taught. From my experience, I have seen many transition into management after some experience within, for example project management. What is needed ( in simplistic terms) for success, is to focus on the results and  take appropriate action within assigned responsibilities to achieve them. This is a little “old school”, because Management is very transactional or digital and focuses on attributes such as “budget” versus “actual"

For example, typical management jargon refers to its suppliers and customers as debtors and creditors and de-values the human capital regardless of whether they are internal or external to the business. You might say it is cold, bland and un-engaging ( this is why I refer to it as “transactional”).


ANBA SOLUTIONSLeadership however, is more complicated as it requires an individual to be visionary, to influence, to motivate and empower others to contribute in a way to achieve success for the business (…or the department …or the team). The “art” of leadership is something which just can not be taught in the same way as management can because it is more than transactional; it is engaging and multidimensional. To be a true leader or to display leadership is a quality in my opinion  which is either:

  1. inherent, i.e. it comes naturally
  2. developed, i.e. through careful guidance, coaching and mentoring over an extended period. It is a medium to long term investment.


ANBA SOLUTIONSAlthough this seems odd, but there are many cases where a person is placed in a management or leadership role who don’t have the ability, skills and understanding of what is required. This quite often occurs because they have either:

  1. been a long serving employee and have been given the role as a reward for their longevity
  2. are part of an in-experienced organisation
  3. have been placed in the role by someone who also lacks the ability, skills and understanding of what is required

When this situation occurs, the results are mostly not favourable. This is because the individual lack the basic skills and capabilities to execute the role. Quite often, the individual is aware of their lack of skills and tends to compensate by micromanaging their team and being the gate keeper of information between them and the rest of the business; closing down any opportunity for individual or team development and contribution.

This poses a risk that seems to be commonly overlooked and can often be a reflection of the company culture, morale and overall code of conduct.

What is the Ultimate Solution?…It is Leadership

ANBA SOLUTIONSThe true gem is combining  the traits or expectations of a manager and leader into the one role and many organisations now place this need or demand on its candidates and refer to this a Leadership role. Modern thinking, progressive and future focused organisations realise there is more to success than just traditional management. Sometimes however, they can overlook the challenges associated with wearing these two hats.

ANBA SOLUTIONSLeadership, is finding the right balance between being able to successfully deliver the management objective but to also be strategic and engaging with the human capital. People with good leadership qualities are able to also deal with difficult circumstances better because they don't conduct themselves in a transactional behaviour which is when the crack appear. Instead, they are focused on how they are going to achieve the objective and ensure their team grow and learn from the situation.

I believe individuals which have administrative and operational experience make the best candidates to manage and lead a business function. This is because they have had the opportunities to gain a more comprehensive insight into what is needed to succeed and overcome the various day to day challenges. In other words, there have a better check on reality because they have been close to the coal face.

What qualities are present in your organisation:

If you consider the above and look at the people in your company or department or team, what type of quality do they posses? 

Are they management material?

  • Do they know what the key priorities are?
  • Are they good at focusing on what needs to be done?
  • Are they consistent in the behaviour?
  • Do they play favourites?
  • Earn the trust of those they manage?

Are they leadership material?

  • Do they trust their team and delegate?
  • Do they share information and communicate effectively?
  • Are they confident and objective, leveraging robust processes?
  • To they demonstrate responsibility and accountability?
  • Do they convey a positive attitude?
  • Are they approachable and genuine in nature?
  • Do they have a high level of integrity and honesty?
  • Are they able to deal with challenges and uncertainty in an effective manner?

The Wrap Up.

In the current times, modern day, future focus and progressive organisations look for people with leadership qualities in their business rather than only management qualities. Those who are stuck in the past will struggle to find their place. When you understand the difference between management and leadership, it is easy to see where your people’s capabilities are at and whether they are compatible for the roles they are placed in.

What do you think?

Andrew Baldacchino
Director - ANBA Pty Ltd

Andrew Baldacchino, is a business coach, mentor, facilitator and speaker. He applies his global industry experience  to help product manufacturing, trade and professional service providers be more profitable, time effective, organised and competitive so their business simply works. Develop your people, processes and purpose so you can improve, scale and grow. Progress is impossible without change.

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