Success vs. Excellence: The Difference Between Managing and Leading

If you want to succeed in the business world, it’s important that you become an effective leader for your team. A huge part of that is recognizing that there is a vast difference between managing someone and leading them. Here are five things you should know about what separates a manager from a true leader.

Ability to Influence

To manage, all you have to be able to do is organize, communicate, and control. To lead is another story entirely. A leader needs to be able to influence those around them. A manager can motivate their employees to work harder by offering incentives, but a leader should be able to inspire those around them with their vision, willpower, and personality.

The ability to influence and inspire is the key difference between a leader and a manager. Each of the following attributes of a leader plays off of this ability and could be said to be components of it. If you aren’t someone who has been thought of as inspiring in the past, don’t give up. When you find something you are truly passionate about, others are bound to pick up on that passion.

Employee Relationships

Managers are there to oversee and direct the work of a team. A good manager will track their team’s productivity and work to improve it. Leaders, on the other hand, should also strive to inspire their workers and cultivate their potential. For a leader, it’s important to improve not only their team’s productivity but also each team member individually. A true leader should know their employees and have their best interests in mind, as well as the company.


Most managers have a relatively narrow view of what they’re doing, focusing only on the tasks at hand instead of larger goals. That works for a manager since they are primarily focused on monitoring and improving one specific process. A leader, however, should have a vision. They should be looking forward to what their teams will accomplish today, tomorrow and even next year.

You should also work to inspire your employees with visions for themselves to help them achieve greater heights than they otherwise could have. Having a vision and being able to communicate it to your employees will help to establish you as a leader, rather than just a manager.


Many managers stick to the supervisory roles laid out in their job descriptions. Though leadership certainly means being able to delegate tasks, it also requires a willingness to do hard work when the success of a team requires it.

As a leader, therefore, you should not only be able to do the jobs of the people who work under you but should be ready and willing to jump in and lend a hand with those jobs when needed. Doing this with a positive attitude can also help to inspire loyalty in your employees, who will see that you’re a hard-working person who isn’t above jumping into the trenches with them to make sure important tasks are finished on time.


The final thing that separates a leader from a manager is commitment. Commitment to the organization, but also a commitment to the people you’re leading. Managers tend to make entire careers in management, a fact that often involves them moving from one company to the next every few years. As an entrepreneur, though, it’s important for you to stay committed fully to your business and its employees.

Keep your focus on the company you’re building, and do your best to help the people under you grow and develop their own careers. When it’s apparent that you are working for them and not just yourself, you’ll be seen as a leader by your employees.

These are a few of the critical differences between leading and managing that every young entrepreneur should keep in mind. It isn’t a bad idea to look into pursuing an online masters in executive leadership or something similar. By remembering these basic principles of leadership in your day-to-day business, you can help both yourself and your company surpass success and achieve legitimate excellence.

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Sarah A