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Good Manager vs. Good Leader — Which One Are You? There are different types of bosses, with different types of strengths. Some are great at getting things done, some are great at motivating others to get things done. The marketplace needs both — but it's awfully hard to find an exceptional manager and an exceptional leader all in the same individual.

By Emily Reynolds Bergh

Key Takeaways

  • Great management is needed to engender a great company. Great leadership is needed to grow a great company.
  • Follow along for great insights into the differences between skilled management and skilled leadership.
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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Part of running a business is learning what makes you run. Some business owners are focused on productivity, profits or personnel. Some prioritize operations, company branding or organizational morale. It takes all kinds of bosses to make things happen, but knowing what kind of boss you are is vital to shaping and growing your company.

Over the years — through much trial and error, being open to input on my management style and lots of self-reflection — I've discovered that I'm more of a good "leader" than a good "manager." My strengths include creativity, problem-solving, team-building and a growth mindset; my weaknesses include time management, data organization, workflow processes and setting boundaries.

This isn't to say that there's a hard demarcation between "management" and "leadership," that skilled managers and skilled leaders don't share many of the same assets. Of course they do, like sharp analytical skills, a focus on team performance, resiliency and deft delivery of constructive feedback. It's just that, by and large, most people lean to one side or the other, and if they try to push themselves too far in a direction that doesn't come naturally to them, they could lose their balance or even topple over.

That's why it's worth examining where you excel, so you can leverage those areas, and where you don't, so you can devise a plan to mitigate your deficits.

1. Good managers organize and engineer, good leaders empower and inspire

This is probably the clearest distinction I've observed in my years of running my own PR firm. Noteworthy managers are the ones that drive the engine — they devise, design, set in place and enact. Their job fulfillment comes from a job well done, and they're respected for their follow-through. On the other hand, an adept leader is often far more concerned with — intrigued by, actually — learning what makes their team members tick so they can motivate and empower them to become their best selves and achieve their highest purpose.

I asked a colleague of mine what he considered his greatest attribute as a leader: "My favorite thing about my role is inspiring my people to discover their potentialities and nurture their aspirations. Even if they leave because of it, it utterly delights me to help ignite that spark in them."

Related: You Need to be a Good Manager and a Great Leader

2. Good managers meet deadlines, good leaders meet needs

It's all good to cheerlead a squad, but things must get done, right? And on time! Accomplished managers are pros at keeping things on point and on track so that deliverables are delivered and clients are properly serviced. However, those with more of a leadership bent tend to base their actions on supplying what their people need to get the job done. By routinely inquiring about individuals' wants and needs — an ergonomic chair, words of affirmation, early departure on Tuesdays for physical therapy — the team leader enables the team manager to manage most effectively.

3. Good managers have tenacity, good leaders have charisma

A good manager will stay on the job until it is complete. They are thorough, resolved, steadfast in their goal-attainment and resourceful in their tactics. They take supervision very seriously, and oversight is their jam. Leaders rely more on instinct and insight, more in tune with the overview of any atmosphere they enter. They know how to read people and, therefore, how to talk to them and reach them. This isn't an act — a talented leader doesn't practice being charming and relatable; they just have a gift for appealing to human sensibilities, and so others follow them.

Related: The 5 Characteristics That Make a Charismatic Leader

4. Good managers earn praise, good leaders earn loyalty

Where would we all be without that key person who manages so much of our daily operations? Personally, I know my schedule would be a mess, my client files would be unorganized and my content calendar would be akimbo. But I've never met a really proficient manager yet who doesn't thrive on recognition of that proficiency. To earn loyalty, be generous with your praise and effusive with acknowledgment of what should be acknowledged. When a manager is told they're doing a stellar job, the light reflects onto their own team and everyone and everything shines brighter.

5. Good managers excel with workflow, good leaders excel with people

A manager with discernment knows how to set the agenda: what to do, in what order, by which staff members. Because of this, things flow smoothly, employees are clear on expectations and workarounds are put in place for the occasional procedural blockage that arises. However, those who pursue leadership over logistics set the tone of a workplace. They do so with a skill set that includes active listening, coaching, accountability and empathy — qualities that make staffers feel seen, heard and valued.

Related: 5 Traits You Must Have to Create More Leaders

6. Good managers build cooperation, good leaders build culture

Management-minded bosses sit at the desk and role-model how to do the job correctly. They're so good at training, instructing and directing their staff because they've gone through all the paces themselves and have risen to their current position based on their know-how. As a result, they can generate connections and foster collaboration among all the various working parts of a chain. In this way, they breed team unity.

Leadership-minded bosses walk the floor on the lookout for what the organizational environment needs to stay healthy, sound, humming and vibrant. Employee retention, employee satisfaction, job immersion and group inclusivity are top of mind, bolstering employees' self-confidence and expanding their comfortability at their chosen place of work. In being the culture-maker and culture-bearer, they breed team unity.

Closing thoughts

Much more could be said about management vs. leadership acumen — how the one produces output while the other begets other leaders; how natural-born leaders master decision making whereas natural-born managers master decision implementation — but the point is that both have a vital role to play in the evolution of a thriving business.

In my opinion, a great manager does not need to be a great leader; they just need to know how to make things happen in given areas. Likewise, a talented leader doesn't need to be particularly skilled in given areas, like coding or packaging or financial forecasting; they just have to have the foresight to fill those positions with people who are particularly skilled and the self-awareness to delegate whatever they don't specialize in themselves.

A peer of mine is a superb manager. But she's not really interested in uplifting her staff, in mentoring or molding them into superstars. She's a "live and let live" person with an "I'll do me and you do you" attitude, and she just doesn't think it's her place to guide employees down a specific path or light their way for them. Her thinking is, "If they want a light to follow, they'll find one of their own choosing. If they want to lead a team themselves someday, they're more than capable of making their way there."

Who's to say who's the better boss? Me with my outreach approach or her with her outcomes approach? Ideally, the boss would be a combination of both, but finding both sides of the coin in the same person is rare. So my advice is to polish the most authentic side of you … and trust that your innate talents will rub off on the other side as well!

Emily Reynolds Bergh

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder at R Public Relations Firm

Emily Reynolds Bergh — vintage-shoe hoarder, cycling junkie, & lover of pink drinks — is a marketing & PR pro with 15+ years of experience under her belt. Now the founder & owner of the award-winning R Public Relations based in New York, she’s been featured in numerous publications & podcasts.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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