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How Management Roles Differ From Leadership Roles

The words manager and leader are very similar and are used interchangeably in the business world. Arguments can be made that leaders are managers and vice versa. If these arguments are true, then what is the difference? Based on the study of the “5 forms of power”, we can get a better understanding of where these roles stand according to how power is expressed.


The primary role of a manager is within the name itself, and that is to manage people. Ideally, managers provide their employees with the tools and guidance to execute the goals of the company. They also establish rules and standard operating procedures. Of the five forms of power(coercive, reward, legitimate, referent, and expert)managers generally express at least one of the following powers or can have multiple combinations of powers to help fulfill their role. How they go about using these powers separates the manager from the leader.


Coercive Power: The use of coercive power to manage employees creates the chances of a hostile and undesirable work environment due to the constant threats imposed on the employees.

Reward Power: Reward power is a positive and effective power for a manager, but the use of rewards should be limited as to not diminish the effectiveness of the power. In other words, the constant use of rewards increases the expectation of a better reward which can be difficult to top if the trend continues.

Legitimate Power: The position of manager (or whatever the position is for a senior level person) holds the title because of legitimate power. Legitimate power is mostly based on perception that that person is in charge because they hold that position.

Referent Power: Referent power can be summarized as “lead by example”. Employees would “refer” to the manager on situations they may be unsure about. Having positive referent power can greatly affect the way you assume your primary role.

Expert Power: Finally, expert power displays how much knowledge you have of something, and having that knowledge provides trust to the employees in working for you.


The roles of a leader are to influence people, display honesty and integrity, and communicate effectively with others. A leader doesn’t have to be in any sort of management position and could possibly even be the new employee. The leader uses his or her roles unconsciously which make them admirable, and those who notice a leader tend to follow their example. Many people consider celebrities and athletes to be leaders because they are so influenced by their success and want to be like them. Leaders also assess and take risks, not really worrying too much on failure cause in the mind of a leader, that leaves room for improvement. The powers leaders generally express are the referent and expert powers.


As mentioned earlier, managers are leaders and vice versa, however, management roles tend to be more extrinsic and leadership roles are more intrinsic. In other words, a manager expresses their roles physically to get people to follow and understand and a leader does it internally. For example, managers manage employees, provides guidance, and establishes rules. As for leaders, their attributes of honesty, integrity, etc. influence people to follow them and the leaders aren’t forcing themselves to make people follow them. Also, in terms of power, managers generally express the legitimate power along with any combinations of the other powers, while leaders express mainly the referent and expert powers. As the saying goes, “Lead by example”, it’s not “Manage by example”.


  • Leaders can be managers and vice versa

  • The use of the “5 forms of power” help us better understand the roles

  • Management roles are purposely and usually physically expressed

  • Leadership roles are usually unintentionally expressed

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