People Leader vs. Team Manager: Responsibilities and Skills

Learn about the roles, skills, and differences between a team manager and a people leader and if there is an overlap between these roles.

When determining the differences between a team manager and a people leader, it’s important to get granular and identify the roles, responsibilities, and goals of each. While there are many similarities between the two roles, there are core differences that set them apart—including their scope, the scenarios in which they lead, and the skills they each possess. Keep reading to learn more about the responsibilities and skills that are required to thrive as a people leader and a team manager. 

What is a people leader? 

A people leader is an individual who is responsible for leading a group of people within an organization. The primary role of a people leader is to inspire confidence while equipping those around them with the tools and resources necessary to work toward and achieve goals. A people leader’s responsibilities vary and can range from managing and motivating their peers, delegating tasks, and resolving conflicts to facilitating effective communication within the group. When compared to a team manager, a people manager typically focuses on broader aspects of leadership, focusing on leadership as a whole as opposed to managing a specific group of people or team.

“I think the best people leaders are the ones who have really focused on mentorship, focused on cross-functional alignment, and have experience in leading.”

David Hoang, Supermanagers Podcast

Listen to the full episode where David talks about career development for people leaders, among other things, here:

What is a team manager? 

A team manager is an individual who is responsible for managing a team. The primary role of a team manager is to ensure the team operates effectively and efficiently. The role of a team manager varies and may include responsibilities such as team leadership, resource management, task delegation, performance management, communication, problem-solving, and relationship building. A team manager should provide guidance and support as they lead their team toward achieving organizational goals. While the terms “people leader” and “team manager” are often used interchangeably, there are several subtle differences including the scope of the role, the leadership style, the relationship orientation, and the strategic perspective. 

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People leader vs. team manager


People leader:

  • Serve as a role model and pillar of strength. 
  • Advocate for the needs and concerns of the team. 
  • Provide guidance, leadership, and support to team members. 
  • Develop and support the professional growth of team members.
  • Collaborate with other leaders and departments to achieve common goals. 
  • Set expectations, establish goals, and communicate the overall vision and mission to the team. 
  • Monitor and evaluate the performance of team members, providing feedback and recognition when appropriate. 

Team manager:

  • Set objectives and priorities for the team.
  • Delegate tasks to and divide them among team members.
  • Monitor and evaluate individual team member’s performance. 
  • Foster open communication and collaboration within the team. 
  • Provide feedback, coaching, and recognition to team members. 
  • Facilitate collaboration with other teams and departments when necessary. 
  • Represent the team’s interests and advocate for their needs within the organization. 


Team manager:

  • While the goals of a team manager will vary from organization to organization, they largely revolve around achieving shared objectives, fostering a positive work environment, and supporting the professional growth and development of team members. 

People leader:

  • The goals of people leaders will also vary depending on the organization and the scenario; however, they largely revolve around fostering alignment and creating an environment that allows team members to grow, thrive, and achieve mutual success. 

Skills needed for people leaders and team managers

People leaders 

1Team-building skills

To effectively manage and inspire a team, people managers must have adequate team-building skills. Team-building skills enable people leaders to foster collaboration and motivation, helping boost morale, enhance communication, and create strong team dynamics. Investing in team-building skills is important because they help create an environment where ideas flow freely, empowering leaders to build high-performing teams that are capable of achieving their goals and driving organizational success. 

2Coaching skills

Not only are people leaders responsible for leading and motivating their teams, but they are also responsible for coaching their team members. Coaching skills allow people leaders to support and guide their team members in developing their skills and reaching their goals. Consistent coaching helps create a positive, growth-oriented environment where team members can embrace continuous growth and perpetual learning. 

3Goal-setting skills

It can be incredibly difficult to motivate a team if there isn’t a North Star. Setting goals provides team members with a sense of purpose and motivation. By setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals—otherwise known as SMART goals—people leaders can effectively define their objectives and align their teammates as they work toward a common goal. This clarity helps team members prioritize tasks and make informed decisions.

SMART goal setting

4Communication skills

People leaders must have strong communication skills to foster effective collaboration and relationship-building within their teams. Leaders who possess strong communication skills can establish trust and rapport through open and honest communication, helping foster positive working relationships and conflict resolution. Clear and concise communication will help team members work together more efficiently, helping to foster alignment and boost productivity. 

5Decision-making skills

In today’s ever-changing business landscape, people leaders must be able to analyze complex solutions, identify solutions, and develop appropriate solutions. Strong decision-making skills empower people leaders to assess new information, make strategic iterations, and make decisions that help keep teams on track in the face of adversity. Effective decision-making skills will contribute to the success of the leader, their team, and the organization as a whole. 

Team managers 

1Leadership skills

Leadership skills are essential for team managers as they contribute to employee development, effective communication, informed decision-making, conflict resolution, and performance and change management. In today’s dynamic business landscape, change is inevitable. Leadership skills empower team managers to guide their teams through periods of challenges and uncertainty with conviction, helping team members embrace adaptability and resilience. Additionally, leadership skills are a crucial component of performance management. These skills help team managers set clear expectations, provide regular feedback, recognize achievements, and address performance roadblocks, all of which are essential when developing a team.  

2Budgeting skills

Team managers are often responsible for managing budgets and financial resources within their teams or departments, meaning budgeting skills are a must. By understanding their team or department’s financial constraints, guidelines, or objectives, team managers can allocate resources accordingly while identifying cost-saving opportunities and prioritizing investments that yield the greatest return. These skills enable team managers to allocate funds effectively, track expenses, and ensure that financial resources are being used in accordance with organizational goals and priorities. 

3Strategic thinking skills

Strategic thinking skills empower team managers to lead their teams while considering their long-term goals as well. These skills are crucial for facilitating goal alignment, planning, resource allocation, problem-solving, adaptability, collaboration, and communication. By being a strategic thinker and understanding the big picture, team managers can identify how their teams’ efforts contribute to the organization’s overall success. This alignment ensures that the teams’ efforts are focused on high-impact initiatives that contribute to the organization’s shared goals. 

4Problem-solving skills

It’s natural for team managers to run into problems from time to time. Whether it be a conflict between team members, a missed deadline, or a team that isn’t collaborating effectively, managers will constantly find themselves in scenarios that require problem-solving skills. Problem-solving ensures effective decision-making, efficient conflict resolution, creative thinking and innovation, and team development. These skills will contribute to team managers’ ability to lead their teams through challenges, achieve goals, and create collaborative, high-functioning teams that are able to work as a collective to achieve shared goals. 

5Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a crucial skill among successful team managers as it promotes relationship building, effective communication, conflict resolution, stress management, and informed decision-making. Team managers with emotional intelligence skills are more likely to create a positive and supportive work environment, enhance team dynamics, and contribute to the team’s overall success and well-being. Additionally, managers with a high degree of emotional intelligence are skilled in delivering feedback, which enhances performance and helps create an open dialogue within the team. 

Is there any overlap? 

While there are core differences between people leaders and team managers, one core pillar remains the same: Both people leaders and team managers are responsible for developing those within their vicinity. This means that both of these professionals are responsible for identifying talent and refining their skill sets through coaching and mentorship opportunities. Both team managers and people leaders will invest in growth and professional development as well as provide guidance and opportunities for professional development and learning opportunities. 

Parting advice

While the specific roles and responsibilities of people leaders and team managers will shift from organization to organization, there will always be a shared focus that revolves around managing the support, development, and well-being of team members while working toward achieving shared organizational goals. Don’t forget to check out the Fellow blog for more tips, tricks, best practices, and productivity hacks!

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About the author

Hannah Ross

Hannah is an experienced content creator and digital strategist with a demonstrated history of working with startups, small business owners, and large organizations. Presently, Hannah serves as the Founder at Flamingo Social where she strives to create impactful organic content marketing strategies that help founders tell inspiring stories.

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