Leader or Manager? Argument Continues

From the Ask Tom mailbag – from a new subscriber in Brazil.

Your blog is fantastic! I´d like to know, what´s your opinion about the difference between managers and leaders?

I usually avoid this discussion. It’s an important question, but usually draws all kinds of fire that is counter-productive. Let’s see if I can make a go of it without getting my underwear wrapped around the axle.

A manager is a role, an organizational role, with specific authority and accountability. A manager is that person, in the organization, who is held accountable for the output of other people. It is a very specific role in an organization designed to accomplish work.

Leadership is a necessary trait of an effective manager.

We often, in casual conversation refer to leadership roles, but in that sense, it carries only vague (generic) accountability and authority. And leadership, as a trait, may be found in other roles outside the role of a manager. In addition to managerial leadership, there is also political leadership, parental leadership, spiritual leadership, scientific leadership, academic leadership. These are all roles in groups organized for purposes other than work.

So, a manager is a very specific role, with defined accountability and authority, in an organization whose purpose is work. Leadership is a necessary trait.

Referring to a leadership role, a leader has undefined accountability and authority and may exist in many types of groups, organized for different purposes.

7 thoughts on “Leader or Manager? Argument Continues

  1. Erich Hanson

    Excellent question, and an even better answer. I’ve subscribed to John Maxwell’s line of thinking that leadership is influence. Anyone and everyone has different levels of influence that allows that person to lead others in more or less significant ways depending on their amount of influence and their circle of influence. I believe that your explanation above aligns well with that, and that a manager with more influence and a stronger leadership trait will only be that much more effective. But leadership/influence can and is present in pretty much every level of a company or any other social group (family, friends, church, business).

    Good stuff! 🙂

      1. Erich Hanson

        I’d consider it an honor. Feel free to shoot me a call/e-mail when you know you’ll be in the area. I’ll work on my Chair to get you into our group again too. It’s been a few years. 🙂

  2. Todd Hawkins, CAE

    How many people want to be managed like a process? Most people desire to work with strong leaders. People that provide vision for the organization and help solve organizational issues. When an organization has strong leadership, employees realize the value of the job they provide and are consistently challenged to provide higher levels of service to external and internal customers.

  3. Pingback: Deckchairs and Inspiration – Are you a Manager or a Leader?

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