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Leader or Manager……..

Exploring what is meant by the terms Leader and Manager and what are the differences in these considered roles. This includes comparisons on attitude towards duties, tasks and responsibilities.

There are many definitions of which some tend to lean towards the same in that –

Managers keep a static system of processes and ensure that everything is done and runs as it should. This could include change and the management of that but still being the ‘organiser’ that watches over all.

Leaders are the drivers, those who lead the Managers and this allows more for innovation and vision. The Leader will push, empower and promote the future. They are usually considered to be at the top of the hierarchy (an error that causes confusion)

For me, a Manager has a job to do and although there will be room for variety in how that is carried out (I’m not suggesting this is a stale role) the Manager has objectives and knows what needs to be done to achieve them. This is more of a doing role, organising, delegating, overseeing and checking.

You will see how this can cross over into my thoughts on a Leader but hopefully you will also understand my separation of the two.

A Leader to me is no Leader indeed unless they have followers. And this is key in understanding the difference. Leaders inspire others, including Managers. If I can give a visual image of both the Manager would be the umbrella that nurtures all underneath.

The Leader is the cup or upside down umbrella that holds all that follows and promotes empowerment, innovation and creation.

So heres the complexity of it. What about Leadership and Management? The Leader who Manages and the Manager who Leads…… well of course these exist. If we stick with the separate definitions we seem to have either a  Leader who cant manage a tea party and a Manager who cant lead.

Doesn’t quite make sense does it, so why are we so keen to define the two ?

We use the position of Team Leader to describe someone potentially at supervisor level. This is first line Management but still a Leader of a team with expectations upon them of Leadership.

As a tutor of Levels 3-7 I know that this is certainly true as the Level 3 is heavily focused on team development, team performance and leadership skills. Switch to Level 5 and we are looking more at a Manager. The qualification is much less about teams other than delegation and more about project management, change management and business performance improvement. Its almost steering towards a lonely desk job that at best includes engagement with stakeholders for the purpose of the operations.

Then theres the level 7 – this is heavily weighted on Leadership but also has a healthy dollop of management in it. It is both an active doing role and a responsibility to encourage a following.

So what it is? Does a leader need to empower, inspire and promote a vision and a manager control and ensure tasks are completed? Who gains more respect or in fact does it matter, and if we really get into ‘Leadership’ we delve into a pond of different styles some of which don’t actually match our beloved rose tinted opinion of what one should be anyway – this is certainly left for another blog!

Maybe we should think of this more in line of what is required rather than giving a title. We wouldn’t call our Prime Minister a Manager, he is considered a Leader and yes this fits the description but its not all he is and does and he still holds a Management role.

 My colleague of nearly 20 years appears to me and most others to be a ‘natural’ born Leader and has indeed led us through some pretty tough times. But he is without a doubt the most task driven Operations Manager I have ever worked for with a meticulous style of Management. I want to maintain the title Leader for him and maybe this is because we consciously hold this term in higher regard.

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

He is in fact the perfect example of Leadership AND Management.

So where am I going with all this?

Within the courses I deliver, the need to define the two is part of the criteria and I know students either go round in circles on this or they separate them completely like two different personalities. This is where I like to clarify what is really required here.

Its not about The leader, the person or The Manager, the person. Its about the role and what the expectations are. This opinion allows us to relax a little and accept that the 2 roles ‘are allowed’ to come together in one person but the actual definitions of Leadership and Management remain most certainly very different.

It doesn’t help that there are so many theorists out there putting their two penny worth in and not quite getting it right. For me, I like to refer to one of my favourite Authors on Leadership, John Kotter.

In a short article on the Harvard Business review he very clearly sets out to explain the differences using 3 mistakes which I particularly find useful. You can read his article here

I would be interested to hear your thoughts……….