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Are You a Manager or Are You a Leader? 23 Distinctions


{#/pub/images/LeaderorManager.jpg}By Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions

Your job title is meant to be an indication of the role you play in your organization. Supervisor, Manager, Director, VP, GM and C-suite titles signify differing levels of responsibility and authority. Climbing the ladder usually includes a progression through titles like these.


But there’s another role that people in these jobs often adopt. It’s a role that is not bestowed by title. In fact, sometimes this role is assumed – there is no choice in it, no announcement of it and no additional perks associated with it. It is the role of leader.


Leader doesn’t mean “the person in charge.” The person in charge of any project or work group is the senior manager. Even when a role includes a temporary title like “task force leader,” the work done by that individual is the work of a manager.


What’s the difference? Well, it’s more extensive than you may realize. This is much more than a matter of semantics. It’s a matter of whether or not you will continue to be successful as you climb that proverbial career ladder.


Managers manage. That means they handle work that needs to be done in the short-term. They are charged with managing the performance of others in order to produce tangible and measurable results.


On the other hand, leaders lead. That means they inspire others to follow over the long-term. They are thinking beyond the here and now, looking beyond the results produced today, and building for the future.


23 Distinctions Between What a Manager Does and What a Leader Does:



 A Manager:

 A Leader:


 Has a short-range perspective

 Has a long-range perspective


 Plans how and when

 Asks What? And Why?


 Eyes the bottom line

 Eyes the horizon


 Imitates others



 Accepts the status quo

 Challenges the status quo


 Does things correctly

 Does the correct thing


 Seeks continuity 

 Seeks change


 Focuses on goals for improvement

 Focuses on goals of innovation


 Bases power on position or authority

 Bases power on personal influence


 Demonstrates skill in technical  competence

 Demonstrates skill in selling the vision


 Demonstrates skill in administration

 Demonstrates skill in dealing with ambiguity


 Demonstrates skill in supervision

 Demonstrates skill in persuasion


 Works toward employee compliance

 Works toward employee commitment


 Plans tactics

 Plans strategy


 Sets standard operating procedures

 Sets policy


 Relies on analytical decision-making  style

 Relies on intuitive decision-making style


 Is risk cautious

 Takes the necessary risks


 Uses a “transactional” communication  style

 Uses a “transformational” communication  style


 Builds success through maintenance  of quality

 Builds success through employee  commitment


 Does not want to experience anarchy

 Does not want to experience inertia


 Plans, budgets, and designs detail  steps

 Develops vision & the strategies to achieve it


 Sets standards of performance

 Sets standards of excellence


 Develops the detailed plan to achieve  results

 Develops future direction by observing  trends


You can use this list of contrasts as a tool for self-assessment. When you add up your activities, which column do you more frequently find yourself? Are you leading or are you managing?


Ideally, you will get to a place where you are doing both. Getting to that place does not require a certain job title or level of authority. In fact, in any organization there are leaders at all levels. They are the people who informally influence others, the ones who develop others, the ones who take risks and innovate. You can easily spot a leader.


Unfortunately, leaders sometimes get ruined when they become managers. They sit behind great big desks working on budgets, planning strategies, analyzing the competitive landscape, developing KRAs and other metrics, and doing work that causes them to lose touch with the people they would lead. They lose their ability to inspire.


So how does can a Senior Manager manage and also lead? First, by delegating to the managers who are closer to the front line. Second, by choosing to lead. That requires stretching beyond what delivers on this month, this quarter, this budget cycle. It requires delivering on the company vision and mission. It requires delivering what people need so they can be inspired and understand the higher purpose and meaning for their work contributions. It requires giving up the control that comes with handling the day-to-day in order to achieve for tomorrow and beyond.


Go back to the list of contrasts. Pick just one manager behavior and work on transforming it into a leadership behavior. Then tackle another. And another. Soon you will be a leader.   


{#/pub/images/DebCalvert.png}Written by Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions

Author of the DISCOVER Questions book series, Deb has worked as a sales productivity specialist and sales researcher since 2000. She is certified as a Master Sales Coach, Master Trainer, and host of CONNECT! an online radio show for selling professionals where listeners ignite their selling power in just an hour. Deb helps companies to boost productivity through people development. This work includes leadership program design and facilitation, strategic planning with executive teams, team effectiveness work, and performance management program design. 


Do you have a question for Deb?  Please visit our Senior Manager Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert 


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