Joe Johnson, Ph.D.
Entrepreneur. Investor. Startup Expert.

If you’ve ever worked for someone else, chances are excellent that you know firsthand that not all managers possess leadership skills. If you’re embarking on your own business venture, it’s especially important to recognize this so that you can either cultivate leadership or management skills in yourself or hire someone who can fulfill those roles.

3 Common Traits Shared by Leaders and Managers

It probably isn’t surprising that successful leaders and managers have multiple traits in common. In fact, that commonality is, itself, beneficial, as both roles share a significant overlap of required skills. Having an amazing idea that might revolutionize an entire industry will only get you so far on its own. The ability to execute is essential in order to transform the abstract into the concrete.

When perusing these traits, take a moment to consider the ones at which you’re best vs. those with which you’re likely to need assistance. Performing a personal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis should help you to identify your opportunities and where you should concentrate your focus in order to maximize your chances of success.

Good Leaders

  • Envision: They are thinkers who generate ideas and new ways of doing things.
  • Inspire: They create excitement for their ideas and utilize their personal charisma and ingenuity to inspire people to follow them.
  • Challenge: They encourage growth and the exceeding of previously applicable boundaries and limitations. They utilize innovation and creativity to spur progress.

Good Managers

  • Execute: They implement practical plans in order to meet specific goals.
  • Encourage: They impel their team (or subordinates) forward by providing feedback and training as necessary.
  • Direct: They indicate how tasks should be accomplished. Guidelines and deadlines are provided in order to keep the project on track.

This infographic helps with the visualization of how these various traits align:

Presented in this fashion, it’s easy to see how the various traits align across roles. You’ll likely identify some with which you’re especially comfortable and others with which you’ll need assistance. For example, perhaps you’re an idea person, but have difficulty creating a workable plan for execution. A team member who can parse your vision into actionable components can help to put you one step closer to the fruition of your dream.

Think about Jobs and Wozniak. Jobs originated the ideas that Wozniak, with his technical know-how, was able to execute. They (sometimes) worked well together and also functioned to keep each other in check. It’s clear that history will remember Steve Jobs as a leader. Steve Wozniak, while certainly a creative inventor and idea man, may well be chiefly remembered as the individual who turned Jobs’ vision into a viable product.

I wanted to highlight the ways in which leaders and managers can work together to realize a vision before addressing their differences in order to emphasize the principle that one role is not more essential than the other. Rather, there are occasions for which a leader is better suited and ones for which a manager is the right fit. Both personality types can – and should – learn from each other in order to maximize their joint potential.

Differentiating the Managers from the Leaders

If you’re hiring or considering taking on a partner, knowing whether they’re a manager or a leader is essential.

Managers and leaders will differ in their work styles and abilities, from the ways in which they approach and view their jobs, to how they deal with conflict and missed benchmarks.

The differences between managers and leaders are not cut-and-dried. They exist on a spectrum and every individual will incorporate characteristics from each side. The most important challenge to address is that of aligning the range of characteristics with your own business goals.


A leader aims to change the way things are done. They pride themselves on fostering creativity and innovation. They are proactive and frequently think about how tasks might be better accomplished.

Managers are primarily process-oriented. Given an end goal, they implement a plan to achieve it and react to whatever roadblocks might be encountered in their attempt to meet that goal. A manager seeks stability in keeping the system functioning smoothly.


Leaders focus on the long-term; the end vision. They focus more on the idea than on how to achieve it. Leaders are ‘big picture’ people.

Managers focus on short-term goals; the little steps that will hopefully lead to realizing the big idea.


In order to accomplish their vision, leaders use their personal charisma to impart a passion for their ideas in their followers. The followers then internalize those ideas and are individually motivated to achieve them.

Managers, conversely, specifically direct their subordinates’ activities. Most often, their authority is derived from their title/position and their subordinates follow them as a matter of duty and process.

Success Equals Leading Plus Managing

Many articles that focus on leadership traits tend to take a negative view on managerial traits. I don’t believe that this should be the case. To succeed, businesses need both leaders and managers. Certainly, managers with good leadership skills are of benefit to everyone around them, but the tasks that managers particularly fulfill are an essential component of success.

Ultimately, possessing the traits of both leader and manager can be helpful for ensuring success. Entrepreneurship often requires both skill sets and entrepreneurs lacking strength in one or the other should team with someone who can help to fill in the gaps. After all, knowing (and addressing!) your own strengths and weaknesses will help you to become more successful in the long run.

About the Author

Dr. Joe Johnson is an entrepreneur, investor, and startup expert. He is the founder and principal of GoodField Investments and the GoodField Foundation (

Joe has a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurial Leadership and an MBA. He is the author of the upcoming book on The Science of Why Most Entrepreneurs Fail and Some Succeed.

Most importantly, he is the incredibly blessed husband of one amazing wife and father of six wonderful children. He resides in Bradenton, Florida. For more information on Dr. Johnson and his work, go to