Leaders Or Managers

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If you’ve ever talked to me, read one of my notes, seen my picture in the post office, then you know that I have sometimes have strange ideas.  Some would say that I am “one brick short of a load” but I just consider myself “different”.  One of the areas where I am different is in the concept of a manager versus a leader.

The Management Study Guide has an article on Leader versus Manager says:

“Leadership and managership are two synonymous terms” is an incorrect statement. Leadership doesn’t require any managerial position to act as a leader. On the other hand, a manager can be a true manager only if he has got the traits of leader in him.

Forbes has an interesting opinion piece that states:

A leader who cannot manage has a vision of where they want to go but no idea of how to get there. A manager who cannot lead is not able to build trust and create engagement within an organization to get to where they need to go. Neither of these scenarios are practical or effective.

The author then goes on to state that “We spend a lot of  time taking people in positions of power and trying to train them to be leaders when we should be finding the leaders inside of our organizations and training them to be managers.”

Harvard Business Review, in 2004, resurrected an article from 1977 that talked about the differences between leaders and managers. The editor who resurrected the article wrote that:

Managers embrace process, seek stability and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly-sometimes before they fully understand a problem’s significance. Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure in order to understand the issues more fully. In this way, Zaleznik argued, business leaders have much more in common with artists, scientists, and other creative thinkers than they do with managers.

So in steps Donald Jessop who holds no MBA or doctorate in organizational behaviour.  Indeed, I’ve taken a sum total of one such course in my life, but I’m going to tell you my opinion anyway.

Can leaders be managers?  Yes.

Can managers be leaders?  Yes.

If you are a manager does that mean you are a leader?  Conversely, if you are a leader are you a manager?  No.  A leader in an organization does not need to be a manager, he needs to be someone who has a vision and whom people will follow.  A manager in an organization does not need to have a vision or followers, he just needs to follow the rules.  Now, there are some that say that a managers followers are those that report to him.  If someone doesn’t have a choice are they really followers?

Most organizations would love it if their managers were leaders as that would solve many issues, but sadly I don’t think that is the case.  Maybe it’s my idealistic vision of what a leader is or is not, or maybe it’s the concept that leadership, true leadership, is not a common thing.  Brilliant leadership is a rare commodity, but even simple leadership is somewhat rare.

The Management Study Guide (referenced above) states that “All managers are leaders.”  I completely disagree with that idea.  I have worked for and worked with managers who were not leaders.  They showed no vision, no concern for goals other than their own and were simply self-absorbed.  The Study Guide goes on to mention that the Manager has followers, those that are subservient to the manager on the org chart.  But is that really the hallmark of a leader?  Someone who has followers only because of their position in the company?

A leader attracts followers because of who they are, not because of what they are.

So what is this rant all about?  It’s about understanding the differences between leadership and management, following due to position or because of ideals.  Don’t be misled by the idea that just because someone is a manager they are a leader.  Find out what they stand for, what their vision is and see if it is something that rings true with you.

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