Manager or leader: which one best describes you?


Manager or leader

Manager or leaderIn 1977, Harvard Business School professor Abraham Zaleznik published an article in which he argued that managers were different from leaders. Being focused on structure and control, managers failed to inspire their employees with a compelling future or a sense of meaning in their work.

In effect, Zaleznik theorized that leading and managing represent not only different skill sets, but that leaders and managers are essentially different kinds of people. To summarize a few of these differences:

  • ? Managers balance, leaders change;
  • ? Managers smooth things over, leaders shake them up;
  • ? Managers direct things as they are, leaders think about shaping the future;
  • ? Managers focus on execution, leaders on ideas;
  • ? Managers focus on procedures, leaders focus on issues;
  • ? Managers seek control, leaders seek risk;
  • ? Managers seek stability so they solve problems quickly, leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and can delay closure;
  • ? Managers focus on achieving existing goals, leaders set out new goals; and
  • ? Managers view work as a process of compromise, leaders look for large gains, even at the risk of failure.

Do you maintain status quos or innovate to achieve your goals?

Since Zaleznik first made these distinctions, it has become part of accepted wisdom that leaders and managers are different. The qualities of leadership are associated with entrepreneurship and innovation, while those of managers, are associated with maintaining order and control.

Entrepreneurial organizations focus attention and resources to go forward and to learn about what they don’t know, not to dwell in the past. They foster initiative, and encourage a mentality of “taking the bull by the horns.” They would rather disturb things than preserve the status quo.

Entrepreneurial leaders view problems as opportunities and devise new approaches to old problems. But they do have a strong need for control, a desire to manage their own destinies and preserve their independence.

In contrast, the priority in management is to keep a steady course and manage the complexities of the business. The emphasis is on planning, coordination, and control.

Managers must be prepared to relinquish some of their authority and learn to trust others (though not blindly). Skills in delegation and securing cooperation are important.

Take a look at these traits: are you more of a manager or leader?

Here is a comparison of what managers and leaders each do:

A manager’s role is to…

  • Attract
  • Hire
  • Motivate
  • Recognize
  • Communicate
  • Listen

A leader’s role, on the other hand, is to…

  • Captivate
  • Engage
  • Inspire
  • Reward
  • Mobilize
  • Empathize

Other examples include that a manager is guided by a plan, while a leader is guided by a vision.

Furthermore, a manager makes decisions on the basis of analysis, but a leader makes decisions on the basis of instinct.

Both managers and leaders are needed to thrive in global markets

Today’s global companies need to be able to draw on both of these leadership styles and put the associated skills to their best uses.

Without doubt, entrepreneurial dynamism needs to be encouraged. But the reality is that no one individual or firm can “do it all alone” and fully satisfy customer expectations. This demands less centralization of authority and more empowerment of the firm’s employees.

Also, firms are constantly evolving and different parts of the firm may be at different stages of evolution, where one style or the other may be more appropriate. Relationships with partners may go more smoothly when like styles are involved.

It can be difficult, though not impossible, to develop an entrepreneur into a manager and vice versa.

The smart firm will want to consider the option of moving people into positions that best suit their management styles.

Indeed, one of the first things that many venture capitalists do when investing in an entrepreneurial firm is to engage professional managers to run the company while turning the original owner into the chief technology officer.

In that way, the company benefits from both the innovative mind that founded the company as well as the professional management needed to grow it.

This content is an excerpt from the FITTskills International Trade Management textbook. Enhance your knowledge and credibility with the leading international trade training and certification experts.

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About the author

Author: Ewan Roy

I'm a Digital Marketing Specialist for the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT). My background is in writing and research, and I am passionate about communicating new ideas and telling stories that matter to you.

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