As a professional in project management, you don’t only manage projects, you also lead teams. So, being able to work as both a manager and a leader can help you excel and really stand out in the workplace.

It’s worth taking some time to uncover the things that differentiate a manager from a leader. After all, some people who are leaders might not make the best managers, and vice versa. But if you’re determined to be both, you can hone your skills to manage and lead more effectively.

Take a look at the information below on managers vs. leaders to figure out which one you are, and to gain a clearer picture of what you might need to do to advance your career.

Project Managers: Experts at Planning and Executing Projects

Outstanding project managers are capable of thinking strategically and solving problems creatively. And, as a manager, you need to be able to plan ahead, while also adapting quickly to changes that might occur throughout the duration of a project.

Managers are responsible for delegating tasks and responsibilities to those on their team. So they need strong interpersonal skills and communication skills to be able to get their message across, motivate others, and provide extra guidance to those who need it.

Put simply, the top managers have what it takes to get things done right. They know how to plan and organize a project, as well as how to control every part of a project until it’s completed according to stakeholders’ expectations.

Project Leaders: Experts at Inspiring and Motivating Others

Project leaders have a vision that they want to achieve. And they know how to motivate, encourage, and inspire others so that they, too, will want to bring that vision to life.

If you want to be a standout leader, others need to view you as responsible and trustworthy. Leadership goes beyond developing a plan, delegating tasks, and coming up with creative solutions to problems that might arise.

As a leader, you also need to be a good communicator and listener who takes feedback seriously. And if you can master the art of remaining positive even when things aren’t going according to plan, you can keep the members of your team going strong as well.

Key Differences Between Project Managers and Leaders

Even though they might seek the same end result, managers and leaders tend to take different approaches when working on a project.

Managers are known for:

  • Directing and instructing their team members
  • Being driven by the tasks that need to get done in order to finish a project
  • Being more controlling and rule oriented when working with others
  • Working towards minimizing and controlling risks
  • Thinking about the short-term
  • Planning details and then telling others about them
  • Having objectives that need to be met
  • Using control and consequences to get team members to complete tasks

Leaders are known for:

  • Coaching and encouraging their team members
  • Driving their overall mission and the purpose of a project
  • Being more inspirational and innovative when working with others
  • Willingness to take risks
  • Thinking about the long run
  • Setting a direction for a project and selling others on it
  • Having a vision that needs to be fulfilled
  • Trusting others to get the job done right

So, Which One Are You? And Are You Ready to Improve?

Whether you currently identify as a project manager or a leader, you can improve your skill set or change course completely when you pursue the right education and certification in the world of project management. It’s entirely up to you to decide which classes you want to take, but know that RMC Learning Solutions is there for you at every step.

The bottom line is this: managers and leaders play integral roles in business. And they do share many of the same qualities. After all, the goal of any solid manager or leader is to work effectively with others. They both strive to complete projects on time and according to expectations, and keep stakeholders and customers happy. They just happen to employ differing methods, but one type of professional isn’t necessarily better than the other, as they both hold value.

RMC offers virtual classes, along with eLearning courses and self-study products, that can help you become a more effective manager and leader. Whether you want to become certified in project management or you want to improve your skills in leading others, there’s a class for you!


Cate Curry
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