On Leadership and Culture

Source: The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager | Ron Alvesteffer

Ron Alvesteffer




Recently, on Twitter, I got into a disagreement with someone on the difference between the role of a manager and the role of a leader.  Those who know me, know that I love disagreement.  Agreeable disagreement causes us to examine our beliefs and it challenges us to make sure that we’re practicing what we preach.

I believe that there are very distinct differences between the role of a manager and the role of a leader.  But the roles should not be in conflict with each other.  Sustainable, high-performance organizations recognize that there is a symbiotic relationship between managers and leaders and they ensure that both are being utilized effectively.

I believe that we manage things (processes, procedures and outcomes) and we lead people (employees, customers and others).

 Here are examples of differences that I’ve identified (I’d love to hear yours in the comment section below):

A manager focuses on process and procedure, a leader focuses on people.

A manager administrates.  A leader envisions.

A manager maintains.  A leader develops.

A manager measures projections.  A leader projects measures.

A manager ensures that things are done right.  A leader ensures that the right things are being done.

A manager ensures that rules are followed (such as laws, regulations and policy).  A leader empowers and inspires innovation.

A manager deals in detail.  A leader in possibility.

A manager magnifies corporate policies, processes and procedures.  A leader magnifies the person, their capabilities and their purpose.

A manager deals in the probable.  A leader deals in the possible.

Managers are, by design, implementers of rules, organizers of details, and they ensure compliance.  Leaders are challengers of rules, casters of vision and they define purpose.

Followers look to managers for tasks, they look to leaders for purpose.  Followers look to leaders for a vision of their destination, they look to managers for the road map that tells them how to get there.  The most effective leaders employ managers who know how to build the best road map.

While it may seem that the manager and the leader cannot coexist with one another, it is imperative that they do.

Today, organizational cultures seem in constant flux between authoritarian environments (led by managers), and laissez faire environments (managed by leaders).  Both cultures are unbalanced, destructive and are unsustainable.

Zig Ziglar wrote that “the leader and the manager must communicate effectively and regularly so all the people understand the support each supplies to the other.”

Sustainable high-performance cultures are purpose-drivenLeaders lead and managers manage.  Both are in agreement and are bound by a common (often written) corporate code.  Their symbiotic relationship serves employees and organizations, well.