As a small business owner, you may often work as both a leader and a manager during a single workday. Leaders and managers have different skill sets and different views of the business, which can make the change from visionary leader to nuts-and-bolts manager difficult as you move from one task to the next.

When you first start your business, chances are you utilize your leadership skills to encourage investors, new clients, and the best employees to share your vision of success. At this stage of business development, you need others to recognize your leadership.

During the growth stage of small business development, the focus of the founder may change to facilitate company growth. This may require managerial skills – the ability to manage people, manage time, manage the company financials, and manage day-to-day challenges.

A successful business needs both leadership and management from the top. Here are some tips on how to be both a top-notch leader and problem-solving manager each day.

Leaders Seek Input. Managers Provide Input.

Leaders tend to focus on the big picture, developing long-term growth strategies. They often ask for input from all employees when developing plans for the future, and encourage input from many different sources. As a small business owner, it’s important to be a conduit for input from a variety of sources that are needed to formulate a “big picture” plan for company success.

Just as important, day-to-day operations must run efficiently and effectively. Managers tend to view their roles as resources for employees, providing direction, oversight, regular input, project review, instruction, and other workday activities. Helpful managers are essential for the smooth operation of any successful business.  This isn’t the long-distance view of company success — it’s “in the trenches” activity that keeps your business running without glitches.

As the company’s CEO, you must employ both leadership and managerial skills: leadership skills to design the road to success, managerial skills to get you there ASAP.

Leaders Praise Loudly. Managers Provide Constructive Criticism.

In your leadership role, you often take the “master plan” view of business operations. When leaders take that long-distance view, they can praise loudly when an employee achieves an objective. Bonuses and other incentives demonstrate to employees that company leaders reward success.

When you put on your “manager’s hat,” you tend to focus on day-to-day operations and point out the small mistakes and missteps made by company employees. In your role as company manager, you must often identify mistakes, unproductive business activity, and other operational issues that require remediation.

As a good manager, provide constructive criticism, but do it softly. Don’t embarrass a well-intentioned employee who made a mistake. Talk to that employee in private. Identify the problem and provide a solution. After all, in this situation, you’re the manager.

Leaders Take Prudent Chances. Managers Avoid Risk.

In your leadership role, you’re more likely to take risks. As the company’s manager, part of your job is to avoid risk. So, as a leader and manager, you’re in an excellent position to develop a growth strategy with potential risk, then manage that risk with prudent caution.

The integration of both leadership and managerial skills may help you avoid taking unnecessary risk, identify potential obstacles, and develop practical solutions from your managerial side.

Leaders Create The Big Picture. Managers Sweat The Small Stuff.

A successful business needs leaders who are both visionary and detail-oriented.  As a business becomes more successful, the owner must continue to be both a visionary, inspirational leader with a view of a bright future, and the bean counter who stays up all night balancing the books.

However, over time, as the business grows and more employees are hired, owners may opt to focus on what they do best – chart the long-term course, or take care of day-to-day operations – depending on whether they’re good leaders or impeccable managers.

Leader or manager? As a successful small business owner, you can – and should – be both. 


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.