The Difference Between Leaders and Managers

January 8th, 2016

Once technical workers move out of the individual contributor role, where the main responsibility is to work hands-on with the technology, the technical career ladder offers leadership and management roles. Projects may have project leaders, technical leads, team leads, as well as project managers. Every company can define the job responsibilities differently, but there are similarities between all the “leadership” roles. The difference between a lead role and a manager role can be subtle, but it’s important to understand in order to identify the best worker for the position.

Project Leader Responsibilities

In technical projects, roles with “lead” titles usually aren’t fully hands-on but aren’t completely removed from the technical work either. Individuals in these positions know the details of the technology. They have a vision for how the project should be executed and how the product should develop over time. They make key decisions regarding choice of technology and the architecture and design of the system being built. The project leader usually assigns specific tasks to other members of the team and oversees their work, but doesn’t have the administrative responsibility for performance reviews. Project leaders are responsible for identifying when a project is in trouble and reporting problems to the project manager; while they can propose solutions, the project manager is usually the one with the responsibility of speaking with customers to reach a resolution.

Project Manager Responsibilities

Project managers have overall responsibility for a project that extends beyond the technical details. They work closely with the business to make sure the functionality being built will meet business needs. They make sure the project is staffed appropriately and the budget for tools, training, and other needs is spent wisely. Their staffing responsibilities include performance reviews and making hiring and firing decisions. When there are issues that affect the ability to deliver on schedule, they coordinate with the business to make sure a change in scope, budget, or delivery date is acceptable. While the project leader works with the quality assurance team to address quality issues, the project manager will typically make the decision of whether the quality is acceptable for shipping the product or not.

Whether you’re hiring a leader or a manager, working with a staffing agency like InReach IT Solutions can speed the hiring process. Our experience lets us screen candidates to make sure their skills fit the position. Contact us to learn how we can help you find the right people to fill your open jobs.