PLAYOLOGY | Manager vs. Leader vs Boss – Which one are you?
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Manager vs. Leader vs Boss – Which one are you?

20 Sep Manager vs. Leader vs Boss – Which one are you?

So it seems that one of the big questions that many people has is “What is the difference between a manager and a leader?” We have all heard the saying – leaders need to be leaders and not managers. But the truth of the matter is in order for a company or organization to run properly with people that are supported and happy – you actually need BOTH.

 I think it is important to start off by sharing what leaders and managers are.

There are many academic and formal definitions for both so below you will find the combination of words that most stuck out to me for each.

Leader: one that influences, inspires, supports and encourages a group of individuals to achieve a common goal or vision

Manager: An individual who is in charge of a certain group of tasks or a certain subset of a company.

Side note: I wanted to provided you with a PC version (aka the one above) but truthfully I believe urban dictionary may have one of the best explanations – “The guy wearing clean clothes who has very soft smooth hands, a slick haircut and tells you to get the hell home before you get any overtime.” You tell me.

So why am I sharing definitions of a manager and leader?

Well because I want to offer a new perspective on something. I do not think these characteristics in the management category are mutually exclusive to a single person but they must be present in some member of the leadership team to ensure full effectiveness.

I truly believe that we need both of these skills in order to be effective in a position of leadership. However, people need to learn how to gracefully move between the two of them. The problem that I see more often than not in the companies that I work with (and have worked for) is that the leadership take the managing approach the majority of the time.

I believe we have all heard the saying “We manage things….we lead people”.

There is so much truth to this, which leads me right into my next point. There is a HUGE difference between a manager/leader and a boss.

Boss: A person that holds a dominant or superior position within their field and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others.

So as I switch the conversation up a bit I would like to bring a new question into play – “What is the difference between a boss and a leader?”

Below you will see a chart that gives you an idea of what a persons behavior is like as a manager, leader or boss.


Simple answer is – a boss is the person that your people eventually quit working for.

The person who shows up only as a boss creates such a toxic culture that often times isn’t noticed until it is too late. Bosses lack Emotional IQ. In fact you can see from the chart above that often times everything with them is all about them.

(Insert Like a boss bitmoji)

Ever heard the saying, “ Anyone can be a father but it take a real man to be a dad”?

It is very similar when it comes to leadership.

Anyone can be a boss and most of us have the ability to manage, but it takes someone truly special to be a leader.” Kai


People work for a boss but they follow a leader. A boss will never be able to create true and authentic buy in from anyone on his or her team. The team might do what they say, but it is because they drive culture and expectations from a place of fear.

In my work life, I have had a combination of them all. Hell – I’m sure I have been a combination of them all. We grow as we learn from resources and our mistakes. Unfortunately learning about leadership isn’t something that is a requirement to move into a managerial role or leadership team.

I’m sure if you look back you can remember your favorite leader and worst boss.

So why people promoted that aren’t truly ready for a leadership position?

 It is because we are looking for all the wrong things. Most of the time people are promoted based on a track record for results, their personality, charm and academic credentials.

At the end of the day – this has no connection to leadership potential and how someone will show up to lead their new team.

A person’s leadership can make or break your organization. So why do companies short change leadership training and development?

Why are we not doing more to make sure our leaders are truly prepared to be leaders?

A time for self reflection

Do me (and you) a quick favor. Please grab a piece of paper or open an app on your phone and take a few minutes to honestly reflect and answer these 5 quick questions:

Where do you fit on this spectrum – are you a manager, leader or boss?

What percentage of time do you spend in each?

Do you know your leadership strengths?

Do you know your leadership weakness?

What is missing in your leadership education that would help you lead your team and organization better?

Thanks for taking some time out of your day to read this article! Appreciate you being a leader that actually cares about making a difference and hope you know that no matter where you are now – you can become an amazing leader.


Ready to discover your personal leadership style and create a personal and professional game plan? Click here to connect with us and learn more about our The Distinguished Leaders Blueprint.

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