Are You a Manager or a Leader? 3 Quick Ways to Tell
Are You a Manager or a Leader? 3 Quick Ways to Tell

Carrie Luxem, CEO of the Restaurant HR Group, shares three ways to discern managers from leaders within your organization.

There’s a lot of talk about leadership these days. But, you’ll find just as much written about managers too.

So much so, in fact, that many now use those terms – leaders and managers – interchangeably. How would you feel if I told you those two words, and the people who embody those roles, may not be one in the same?

Both roles are vitally important in terms of running a successful business (or in my world, successful restaurants). They are inextricably linked, yet still markedly different.

Here are 3 ways to discern managers from leaders within your organization.

1. Things vs People

To put it simply, managers are focused on getting things done, while leaders invest their energies into people.

I’ll be the first to say that there is a fine line here and it’s not always cut ‘n dry when distinguishing between the two positions – many people possess qualities of both.

Although I will argue that individuals will typically lean more strongly towards one side than the other.

To really see the differences in action, let’s take this a step further.

2. Motivate vs Inspire

Managers use their skills to plan, organize, coordinate, and motivate to get things done.

Leaders use their skillsets to inspire and influence people.

It’s important to note that just because managers’ roles tend to be task-related, their contribution is in no way trivial. After all, some of their responsibilities may include:

  • Providing ongoing feedback to teammates.
  • Setting individual and team goals.
  • Organizing employee schedules.
  • Addressing customer service complaints.

In other words, managers are planning, organizing, and coordinating THINGS in order to keep the team motivated. And oftentimes, it’s these specific tasks that keep a business functioning seamlessly from day-to-day.

As for leaders, these individuals have an uncanny ability to help others see the bigger picture or their greater purpose. They do this by tapping into each person’s talents, fears, hopes, and dreams.

For example, they can:

  • Ignite, or reignite, the fires of self-motivation.
  • Elicit excitement and enthusiasm where there once was none.
  • Inspire teammates through their words, actions, and attitude.

Leaders tend to initiate a deep-rooted, emotional response from their PEOPLE – that’s intentional. This is the catalyst that draws those around them into the inner circle.

Which, in turn, allows teammates to join ranks and work towards a singular vision – whether that relates to company culture, a shift in purpose, or simply a procedural change.

3. Learned vs Innate

Are people born into the roles of managers or leaders? Has fate already decided your role? Or can managerial and/or leadership skills be learned?

I do strongly believe that people are born with innate skillsets. Those skills might relate to organization, communication, or technical knowledge.  

But, that doesn’t mean you’re pigeonholed forever. As far as teachability, each person is different. Some may be able to learn tasks, but leadership evades them.

And others may have great success at acclimating themselves to a leadership role, particularly through the use of a mentor or coach, but not assume a task-oriented role as easily.  

“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” – Zig Ziglar


Remember: People want to be led, inspired, and influenced – not managed.

Manage things, lead people, and your business will thrive.

Carrie Luxem is a human resources professional specializing in the restaurant industry. In 2010, she founded Restaurant HR Group where she partners with dozens of restaurateurs to take care of their greatest assets — their people. With a career that has spanned nearly 20 years, Carrie is frequently sought out for her modern, yet simple and effective advice and has been featured in Entrepreneur, Restaurant News, and Independent Restauranteur. Connect with her on social media or learn more at