What is the difference between a leader and a manager?
Are the titles interchangeable?
Traditionally, managers were the people who kept the systems running. They made sure the work was done on time and with the best quality possible. Managers trained, supported and praised workers to ensure that the widget was built correctly. You earned a management title when you had enough experience and intelligence to effectively keep the systems running.
Leaders were visionaries. They took risks and led from the front. Leaders didn’t necessarily have to be the person at the top of the hierarchy. It was awarded to anyone willing to inspire others to follow them into potentially dangerous situations with the hope of coming out better on the other side.
Sometimes in education, we get the titles mixed up. We tell students to be leaders but really we want them to be managers. Great managers get the student council running properly, they keep track of all their school work and submit it on time with their best effort, and they support their peers so that the whole system works better.
Leaders push the boundaries of their education. They look for alternative ways to solve problems, they write controversial essays, and they seek out new ways to improve their school. They take risks and own up to their failures. They push for change.
When you’re evaluating someone’s leadership abilities, make sure you’re not mistaking them for a manager.