Individual Contributor vs. Manager

Is it Better to be a Manager or an Individual Contributor?

The traditional yardstick of success for an individual was to become a manager and then take senior positions as their career progressed. However, things have changed now, and people like the freedom in the position of an individual contributor. 

Individual contributors are now paid more for their technical skills and make as much as a manager. So, is it better to be an individual contributor or a manager?

Let’s find out. 

Individual Contributor: Roles and Responsibilities

So, what is an individual contributor’s role? An individual contributor is a non-management professional contributing to an organization on its terms and assisting it in achieving its goals and mission. Individual contributors are not accountable for managing anyone other than themselves, even though they must report to someone within the organization. 

Individual contributors may be in charge of a process or project that they can finish as part of a team or on their own, but they are not in charge of a group of people. The roles and responsibilities of an individual contributor are limited, especially when compared to a manager. 

Individual Contributor vs. Manager

Individual contributors have fewer managing responsibilities than managers. The latter oversees projects and ensures that everything is going according to plan. The role of a manager requires strategy making, whereas individual contributors perform tactile tasks. 

While we are talking about individual contributors vs. managers, we have to discuss the responsibilities of both roles. Individual contributors do not have to shoulder responsibilities, which is why they have more time and energy to focus on their skills and craft. 

Managers often have to focus on team goals, report to higher-ups, attend meetings, and more. They may delegate some of these tasks to individual contributors. Overall, both the roles have different responsibilities and require unique skill sets. 

Recommended Read: A Manager’s Guide to Improve Communication Skills at Work

Individual Contributor vs. Leader

The principal distinction between individual contribution and leadership is where the position holder focuses their attention. Individual contributors might concentrate most of their attention on their achievement, progress, and outcomes as an individual. 

On the other hand, leaders need to concentrate on how others will succeed, what skills they need to acquire, and what approaches they might take to accomplish goals.

Moving from Individual Contributor to Manager

Here are some tips on how to move from an individual contributor to a manager: 

Don’t shy away from responsibilities

Managers delegate responsibilities when they feel that an individual can handle them. An individual contributor should make their presence felt and participate in a manner that begets more responsibilities.

They should not shy away from but take on and carry out duties to the best of their abilities. When higher-ups see their potential as a manager, they might offer them the position. 

Showcase managerial skills

One does not need to be a manager to showcase managerial skills. Leaders understand how to motivate their employees, persuade them of their point of view, and inspire them to take action. Accepting project leadership responsibility allows individual contributors to practice these talents.

Individual contributors must make their ideas known, take the initiative to put them into action, and enlist the help of others. Be someone their boss can count on to rally the troops behind a decision. In other words, they must utilize their power to influence others to go where they want them to go.

Recommended Read: 13 Proven Time Management Skills for Managers In 2022

Think of the big picture

Individual contributions are generally more tactical, whereas managers are more strategic. Managers concentrate on identifying what has to be done rather than how to execute it. If an individual contributor wants to become a manager, they need to start thinking like one. 

They must attempt to grasp the big picture and how the individual pieces fit together. They must consider why some items are important and how they affect the company. Instead of focusing on the work at hand, they should ask themselves: “What function do these activities play in assisting us to achieve the organization’s objectives?”

Individual Contributor vs. Manager Career Path

The usual path to advancement was to work one’s way up to a management position. These positions were likely to be more senior and well-paid if they oversaw more individuals and teams. How soon one progressed from individual contributor to people manager determined their success. 

On the other hand, career advancement nowadays can take numerous shapes, and for some, it means progressing as an individual contributor. One can earn a handsome sum as an individual contributor, with the added advantage of having much fewer responsibilities. 

So, is it better to be a manager or an individual contributor?

There are benefits and perks to both roles. 

  • Managers are rewarded for their leadership skills, while individual contributors are rewarded for tactical skills. 
  • Managers do not need to have specialized knowledge or need to be technically advanced to get the job. In contrast, individual contributors need to have a good skill set and technological know-how. 
  • Managers’ careers progress faster than those of individual contributors. However, they might get stuck in one department for too long. Individual contributors have the advantage of being versatile. They can change positions, departments, and even their job reasonably quickly. 


These days, employees want flexibility while they hone their skills. Some people do not want to have a plethora of responsibilities. On the other hand, many people want to become managers and lead from the front. What you decide to do depends on the kind of career you wish to have. We hope that this article helps you in choosing and pursuing that role.

Springworks Team

Building products and tools to simplify the life of an org's HR function in terms of recruiting, onboarding & retention!

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