I am always asked by my clients what the differences are between a leader and a manager in my past 16 years as a consultant. To be honest, the differences between a leader and a manager are cliche to some extent and had been repeated hundreds of thousands of times in any media and channel. However; with the newly onboard managers from the younger generations and millennials in the job market, the importance of repeating and highlighting the differences between a leader and a manager is still there. In this way, I worked with my colleague, Tony Chen, Principal Consultant at Morgan Philips Talent Consulting China, to interview with 11 clients and talk with them what the crucial differences are for being a real leader in the past 2 months. Here are the three critical ones from our interview results.
1. Short term vs Long term:
The first distinguishing difference between a leader and a manager is their perspective of short term or long term. We found that as a manager, he or she is more likely to look things and manage his or her job in a short term perspective, which reflects on that a manager focuses more on financial related KPI (key performance index). Consequently; a manager is more willing to accept immediate results of his or her job rather than those which would be happened 2 or 3 years later. However; leader behaves in an opposite way in his or her perspective. A leader is more able to pay attention on operational enhancement of working processes and is more interested in the marketing, company’s branding, and people related matters which do not directly and immediately reflect on the company’s financial results but could pay off eventually. Moreover; a leader is also more willing to invest in the future, including the future rising star and business, and to keep patient to wait for these taking off.
2. One way thinking vs Broad thinking:
From our interview and study, we also found a significant difference between a leader and a manager in their way of thinking. Here, we call this difference as the competency inertia. As a manager, we found that he or she is more caring about his or her personal own job and about what he or she can manage and control now. To some extent, this could be silo thinking as well, which is not beneficial for collaboration and innovation. Nevertheless; a leader prefers utilizing his or her capabilities on thinking out of box. A leader does not only take himself or herself into account, but also take others and their current status quo into consideration so that he or she is more willing to cooperate with others including his or her peers and people with lower organization levels than him or her. As a result, we also found that a leader can stand at higher probabilities of leading teams to achieve strategic transformation in the long run by demonstrating his or her perseverance and grit.
3. Materialized motivation vs Non-materialized motivation:
The third key difference between a leader and a manager from our findings is their different motivation. As a manager, we found that he or she is more used to behaving like an agent under the agent and principal model in the economics theory. He or she prefers devoting and contributing himself or herself in jobs by how much he or she is paid by the principal. If you ask a manager to go for extra one mile, you will need to pay more. It is clear that a manager is more driven by his or her competitive salary package, title he or she is given, personal reputation in his or her interested fields, and the size of team he or she is in charge of etc. Overall speaking, a manager is hard to be motived by the deep inner core of his or her heart emotionally and untouchably. Otherwise; as a leader, he or she prefers working with his or her own purpose so that he or she is always asking himself or herself why I shall take this job and work with this company at this moment in my current career stage. A leader is more reflective and inner driven about his or her working motivation. There is no doubt that a leader is more driven by his or her impact on the jobs, teams, and even the whole organization, by his or her career development and achievement, and by his or her entrepreneurship and autonomy demonstrated on his or her daily job.