What separates the leaders from the managers?

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 By Jack Nevison

There are project managers, and then there are project leaders.

At first glance, it would seem that both share the same job functions. They are both tasked with directing a project and ensuring its timely completion and—with any luck—its eventual success. But, as contributor Vineet Nayar writes on a post on the Harvard Business Review, there are some key differences that separate the two.

All project leaders are managers, but not all managers are leaders.

First, Nayar writes, there is a difference between "counting value" and "creating value." As he sees it, managers count value by simply measuring what their employees create. Sometimes this process actually subtracts value—especially if the process of counting occurs too frequently, distracting people from getting the work done.

Meanwhile, leaders create value. They actually participate in the process, using their skills to add to whatever the team is already doing. Rather than simply managing day-to-day operations, Nayar says they lead by example.

Nayar also argues that there is a difference between inspiring good work and demanding it. Managers control the people under them, requiring them to complete specific tasks. Indeed, discussions with managers often don't go beyond the immediate work at hand.

But leaders don't just dictate. They motivate. Nayar cites Mahatma Gandhi, who "walked shoulder to shoulder" with the Indian people to help them win independence from British rule.

Finally, Nayar compares the way managers and leaders navigate their social circles. Managers, he says, create "circles of power" while leaders create "circles of influence." The difference? People will come to leaders for advice.

Project managers should strive to be leaders. That's why New Leaf Project Management offers programs to help managers achieve PMP® certification. In addition, New Leaf's QPM™ series of online games lets managers hone their skills while earning convenient and affordable PDUs to maintain their PMP® status.

"PMI," PMP," and "PMBOK" are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.

"QPM" is a registered mark of New Leaf Project Management. All rights reserved.

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