Manager Versus Leader: What Is the Difference Between a Manager and a Leader?

A Successful Call Center Requires Both a Manager and a Leader

Who do you want to run your call center, a manager or leader? Are they the same thing or different? Can one become the other? These are all great questions in the manager versus leader debate. Let’s investigate this idea of manager versus leader further.

What Is a Manager?

Aside from stating the obvious that a call center manager is someone who manages a call center, let’s dig a bit deeper. A call center manager’s job is to maintain a call center operation to ensure a smooth and effective delivery of quality service to callers and clients. If this sounds a bit like maintaining the status quo, you’re quite right—assuming that the status quo is good. However, most call centers have areas where they can improve. That means the manager must seek ways to move beyond what is and work towards achieving something that is better. This means transcending management into the area of orchestrating improvement.

What Is a Leader?

Again, we’ll start by stating the obvious. A call center leader leads the call center. Now let’s look at a more helpful definition. A call center leader builds a team who will provide excellent service to callers and clients. The call center leader—even if their title is manager—must inspire, motivate, and encourage their charges. And sometimes a leader must make the tough decisions that affect the future of the call center and its staff.

Manager Versus Leader

Given these two definitions of manager and leader, there seems little overlap. In fact, they appear as distinct positions. This could be the case, but it doesn’t have to be. Every call center has someone with the title of manager, but few call centers have someone in the position of call center leader. That doesn’t mean the call center lacks leadership, it just means that the leadership may come from someone else.

Can One Person Be Both Manager and Leader?

Some managers can become great leaders of people, just as some leaders can also learn to manage staff and systems. But that doesn’t mean one is automatically the other. In fact, they seldom are—at least not naturally. Both management and leadership skills require effort to achieve and maintain. And just being good at one doesn’t automatically make someone good at the other. Many books teach about management. Other books inspire leadership. A call center manager should study both, as they strive to be both manager and leader. This will help ensure that the call center functions smoothly today and is prepared to embrace a better tomorrow.


This short post won’t resolve the manager versus leader debate, but it does point out that call centers need people to function in both roles, regardless of their title. In an ideal situation, the call center manager also functions as the call center leader. In other situations, two different people effectively handle the role of manager and leader. What a call center must avoid, however, is only having a manager and no leader or only having a leader and no manager. To find success both now and in the future, a call center needs both a manager and leader. Might you be that person? Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan. Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry, helps clients grow their revenue and optimize their business. Contact Janet at or 800-901-7706.