Are You a Manager, a Leader, or Both?

Are You a Manager, a Leader, or Both?

Most Colleges and Universities offer programs under the heading of “Leadership and Management.” Why not just leadership, or just management? What’s the difference between the two? Is one more important than the other? My view is that there is clearly a difference between the two. Not every manager is a leader. Not every leader is a manager. You can be both, if you choose to.


Social scientists have devoted large chunks of their brainpower to defining and differentiating the concepts of leadership and management. Here’s a quick tour of some of their thinking, starting with observations from leadership scholars. After reading those lists, it is tempting to see managers as lesser beings than leaders, drudges who feed the machine while leaders create visions of a better world. But consider how difficult life is when our managers don’t deliver for us.

Managers oversee, among other things:

  • Work Schedules
  • Internal-External Communication
  • Procuring and Protecting our Tools and Technology
  • Hiring
  • Training
  • Evaluating
  • Holding People Accountable
  • Developing Systems
  • Collaboration Across Groups

That small sample demonstrates the importance of managers to organizations. It is why leadership thinkers criticize those who “denigrate management to ennoble leadership.” They praise managers for bringing order, stability, and predictability to the workplace. Journalists who have worked in newsrooms without those characteristics can offer a hearty “amen” (which explains why institutions teach leadership and management). But that opens an important door, the argument that management is about authority, and leadership is about influence.

That, I believe, is a clear and critical distinction. Managers have the authority to make things happen. They can do it by force (reward and punishment), or by simply “pulling rank.” That’s authority. But managers who lead, and leaders who aren’t managers, reach goals through influence. Influence comes from trust – from a person’s expertise, integrity, and empathy as perceived by others. Maximum influence comes to those who are strong in all three areas.

As I see it, people are required to follow managers. They choose to follow leaders.

Now, want to take things a step farther? Then consider that there are different levels of leadership. Such as:

  • The people I lead are more than a means to an end.
  • I help people achieve a genuine sense of purpose in our work; values matter.
  • I find opportunities for people to grow and their ideas to be heard.
  • I learn what motivates people, both intrinsically and extrinsically; I don’t assume.
  • I value people as individuals, and give them individualized attention.

Leaders/Managers of today don’t understand the fact that – Leadership and Management, both are interlocking competencies. One can’t exist without the other. I see leadership within the positional powers of “managership”. I understand that Managers are focused on serving the short-term bottom-line numbers, to serve their own survival; while Leaders are supposed to live by the values in serving the larger and long-term interest of stakeholders. But if Leaders start to manage within their organization, instead of impressing outsiders, then the organization can be efficient and successful. As far as my question is concerned – “Is Management more important than Leadership?”, I think that they both are really important. And if we can somehow create a tight bond between Leadership and Management then we can avoid companies from failing.

If you take a second look at those commitments, you’ll note that they easily apply to a person with the title of manager, if that manager wants to be known as a high-level leader. But they can be embraced just as easily by a person with no title at all other than “colleague.”

The truth is, many of the strategies in today’s world are built-in isolation at the “top”. If this wouldn’t be the reason then we wouldn’t have seen major financial and automobile companies failing. Today, most of the Managers are told to meet their targets, or they will be let go. This approach shapes a Manager’s thinking. Instead of taking risks to create new opportunities, they become busy in meeting their targets. Besides, with so many of their colleagues gone in downsizing, they feel like they have less and less time to think. This approach induces a big gap between Management and Leadership. Instead of thinking about the long-term vision (right thing), Managers become busy in looking good for the next quarter and “doing things right”.

Today, businesses need good Managers. But Leaders at every level are essential to the Manager’s roadmap of success.

Have you considered stepping up?

Richard Gould – Design Administration

Gould Design, Inc.