leader versus manager?

August 30, 2017

Managers are receiving a bad rap in my opinion. I enjoy learning and sharing about leadership, so I keep up fairly well with the current literature. Additionally, I have been an adjunct professor at the graduate level for about 14 years often teaching on leadership using various texts.

I have seen a bit of a disturbing trend in the literature in that it sends, or implies, the message of “Leaders = Good, Managers = Bad“.  People are encouraged “don’t be a manager, be a leader!” as if managers are not leaders. That is the wrong message!

The contrast is actually about being a good boss (leader) versus a bad boss (leader).

Managers are leaders, supervisors are leaders! Without managers and supervisors we would never get anything done! They are the team leaders of the people actually getting the work done.

What we really have are:

Strategic Leaders (Executives) – setting vision, direction, and strategy

Operational Leaders (Directors & Senior Managers)- coordinating the work of multiple tactical level teams in order to execute the strategy set by the strategic leaders.

Tactical Leaders (Managers & Supervisors) – tactical level leaders that are leading the teams of people actually doing the work of the organization.

So, please do not diminish the critical role of managers by contrasting them negatively to the term leader. Managers are leaders!