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It can seem confusing to tell the difference between managers and leaders. The reality is that there is a crossover; however, there are also clear differences between the two. Here are the stark contrasts between leaders and managers.


Leaders are known for their ability to get started. It doesn’t matter how they feel or where they were before their current role—leaders always find a way to get ahead. But it’s not just that. They also bring others along with them. They encourage those around them to dream big and to do big.

Managers, on the other hand, tend to stay with what is safe. It’s not that they don’t have leadership qualities, but it’s just that their self-interests prevent them from expressing that side of themselves.

Making the Story vs. Telling the Story

Salespeople go out and create the money (revenue) for the company. Accountants review the money and make up a story about the money (based on facts, in all fairness). That is the same concept with leaders and managers. Leaders go out and make waves and set the pace for the company. Managers often create rules to fall into line with what the leaders already created or decided for the company.


Inherently, leaders must be optimistic. People are happy to be led by someone with a bright outlook. Managers often have defeatist viewpoints that get in their way when they are trying to influence their employees to perform. This difference: optimism vs. pessimism, is one of the main differences that set the two apart. It’s not that a manager cannot be a leader. It’s that most managers don’t know how.

When it comes to leaders and managers, they fulfill similar roles. They need to keep staff in line. They have to deliver on company goals. And most of all they have to have self-discipline. But while someone can be a manager, it doesn’t mean they are a leader. Leaders are those who move forward and make innovation wherever they are. Whether they are employees at the top or the bottom, or even entrepreneurs, leaders can be anywhere. The key is to recognize the leadership qualities that you have in yourself and bring it out, no matter your current role.