The Difference Between IT Managers and IT Leaders

There’s a very fine line between manager and leader in writing – but from a practical application, it’s not thin at all. It’s a big, thick line that your employees will notice very quickly. They may not be able to call it by name, but they know the difference between a “good boss” and a “bad boss.” One leads and influences, one demands.

There are also several similarities, so sometimes it’s easy to confuse the two. What’s the difference? Well, there are several.

Leaders inspire. A manager will tell you a project is due in several weeks. A leader will sit down with a subordinate – especially an inexperienced one–and review performance goals and objectives, and help plan how to get there. A leader ensures the employee has everything they need (and then some), not just to finish the initiative du jour, but to excel.

Leaders create more leaders. It doesn’t matter if you’re an SQL DBA or a freshly graduated software engineer. Anyone has the aptitude to lead something, or someone. A true leader creates other leaders, and mentors them into professional fruition.

Leaders influence. People gravitate towards charismatic personalities, but only for a short time. A real leader influences behavior, not from charisma, but from a humble aura that commands respect and a complete grasp of the subject matter. A leader must be more than proficient in technical expertise – but so must a manager. In this case, the leader demonstrates the need and the best approach for a subordinate, and leads by example.

Leaders don’t “lay down the law” – they epitomize it. People follow success. Managers can preach about how they rewrote a program single-handedly to their heart’s desire. Meanwhile, a leader is showing someone how to do it. Actions, words, all that jazz.

Leaders let others think for themselves – and guide the process along the way. Remember the first website you designed? You probably had someone show you very explicitly what they wanted, step by step. Leaders let the subordinates think for themselves, rather than simply providing answers, especially if they can’t remember something. Added bonus: people remember it better that way.

Leaders embrace employees’ goals. A manager orders directives: a leader sets standards by actions. Managers tend to be detached, whereas a good leader will make an employee’s success – and hence, goals – their own. This, by default, makes leaders much more in sync with their employees, regardless of the tenure. This does not equate to micromanaging, however – quite the opposite. Remember, leaders encourage free thinking.

Leaders innovate. Managers tend to crave the status quo – albeit encouraging productivity. Instead of thinking outside the box, they simply want a larger box. Leaders shatter the box paradigm and rearrange the previous perimeter from a square to – well, whatever they want. It’s their prerogative to do so (Thus, we recommend you let them). Don’t reinvent the wheel for a new automobile – build a helicopter.

Finally, leaders lead. Leading is the aggregate of everything mentioned above. Anything that creates enthusiasm and excitement is leadership; contentment, consistent sub-par performance and low morale isn’t. If there’s negativity in your workplace, it’s best to candidly examine what it is and why. It’s usually a failure of leadership, whether it’s easy to accept or not.

We know the difference. And we want to find the difference for you. At CultureFit, we place an enormous emphasis on finding the “soft skills” that a resume can’t find; the viewpoints and personalities that fit with your company. These are the key indicators that decrease churn and increase productivity, and it’s how we separate ourselves from the rest. We know how important a cultural model is to both employer and employee, and we retain a wide pool of talent to match you to the ideal candidate. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let us help design your retention plan.