This is a great question that we tiptoe around as leaders. We think of leaders as a single thing, you are a leader or not. Sometimes we say someone is a thought leader, but the singularity of the concept is the same. the thing is, that not all leaders are the same. The difference between the types of leaders is sticking and directly affects things like culture and employee happiness.

A Manager Manages Things. This may be a project, people, function, etc. The focus is usually on the near term if not day to day. This is the most basic form of leadership and typically considered entry-level & mid-level leadership.

  • Highly focused on a deliverable
  • Manages people in terms of the focus
  • Concerned about a specific focus goal or success

A Leader Leads Things. Where a manager manages things on a day to day level, a leader manages the journey of a thing. Leaders lead people, usually out in front doing showing the way to achieve a goal or thing. This is the realm of the hands-on leader, someone that likes to still do. In this way a leader is like a manager being very close to the doing of something. This form of leadership is typically considered mid-level and senior.

  • Hands-on leadership, usually working alongside or in front of others
  • Leads people by example or doing
  • Concerned about the team actions to achieve a thing

A Coach Coaches People. This is where leadership makes a significant change. Coaches no longer lead or manage things, they coach people. Coaches are considered about the people journey to achieve goals. They let people make the decision on the things that need to be done. A Coach will focus on people’s happiness to empower them to innovate and achieve. This form of leadership is typically considered senior.

  • Supports/Coaches people so that they can achieve
  • Has a vision but lets people define the details and journey
  • Concerned about people’s happiness and environment

You may be thinking that the best leader is one of the three, but that isn’t the case. Great leadership is knowing when to apply the right leadership style. All three forms of leadership are needed, knowing when to be the right leader for the team and situation is key to leadership success.

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