Leaders and Managers

In business literature we often see the terms leader and manager used interchangeably. However the role of a leader and the role of a manager are different, even though there may be a fuzzy gray line between the two roles in certain aspects. If we understand the requirements of each role, we are better able to identify or develop people to serve in these roles.

leaders and managers Ken Vaughan Ohio

It is ideal when we have people who are capable in both leadership and management. At any level within an organization there is a mix of task, management, and leadership responsibilities but the relative mix changes. Entry level workers are generally responsible for tasks. As their capabilities and responsibilities grow they transition to more responsibility for management of resources, whether it be materials, people, or other resources. As they move to higher levels in the organization they transition to more leadership responsibilities. Of course, since leadership is influence, we can find opportunities to influence no matter what our role in life is. But in general, as a person moves to higher levels in an organization, the expectation is that they move through a process of growth from task to management to leadership.

Managers are very much stewards. They marshal resources and apply them to accomplish tasks or produce output. They are focused on

  • planning,
  • organizing,
  • and controlling.

Peter Drucker described the role of a manager as the following:

  • Setting objectives and planning. The manager translates vision and mission into goals for the group, and decides what work needs to be done to meet those goals.
  • Organizing. The manager divides the work into manageable activities, and selects people to accomplish the tasks that need to be done.
  • Motivating and communicating. The manager creates a team out of his people, through decisions on pay, placement, promotion, and through his communications with the team. This integrates the team to optimize productivity.
  • Measuring performance. The manager establishes appropriate targets and yardsticks, and analyzes, appraises and interprets performance.
  • Developing people. The manager develops the people in the group to optimize performance and prepare for upcoming tasks and goals.

Leaders are very much developers or builders. Their role is to develop people and the organization for the future. In the book, The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner describe the role of leadership as follows:

  • Model the way
  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Challenge the process
  • Enable others to act
  • Encourage the heart

In another article that I wrote recently, I describe the role of leaders as follows:

  • Leaders build – themselves, the people around them, their teams, and their organizations.
  • Leaders inspire – a strategic direction and vision for the future.
  • Leaders communicate – using candor and clarity to keep their people united.
  • Leaders challenge – both people and the organization to change and grow.
  • Leaders enable – people by delegating and removing constraints.
  • Leaders encourage – by building relationships where people are valued and motivated.

This then describes a sort of hierarchy in which leaders guide the development of vision and capability for the future, managers steward resources for today’s step forward, and workers accomplish the tasks required along the way.

Are you a leader or manager? What are your plans for growth to the next level?

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