A person who has control or direction of an institution, business, etc. or of a part, division, or phase of it.
The person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.
Although the terms “Manager” and “Leader” are often used interchangeably, there are some significant differences between the roles that are worth illuminating and discussing. In this blog, I’ll outline these differences and provide a few questions for self-reflection.
At the 2019 HBS Online Connext conference, Professors Nancy Koehn and Joe Fuller provided a powerful visualization of these differences. In short, Koehn and Fuller explained that Management is usually focused on bringing individuals together to accomplish a common purpose or goal on a regular basis while Leadership creates an environment where people are empowered to realize a vision or outcome. Manager is also used more commonly as a title whereas Leader refers to the qualities of a person. It is possible to be considered both, but knowing the characteristic differences, and when to lean into each role is important.
Although it’s easy to see parallels in these roles, Leadership paves the way for self-organization and self-direction where Management does not. In some instances, a Manager is needed to ensure continuity and consistency – to administer and maintain. In other instances, a Leader is needed to inspire creativity and experimentation - to innovate and develop. Understanding the needs of the team and the desired outcomes that need to be achieved are critical factors for knowing which role is needed and when.
Self-reflecting on your team, which characteristics would produce the best environment for delivery excellence? Do you need to adjust your style based on what you’re trying to accomplish? Is the team ultimately setup for success? Why, or why not?
Below is a quick reference to see and identify the key characteristic differences between a Manager and Leader. Use the information below to reflect on which role best supports your team and the desired outcomes you’re driving toward:
- Create Goals
- Build Systems or Processes
- Maintain Status Quo
- Control Risk
- Avoid Failure
- Lean into Existing/Proven Skillsets
- Create Vision
- Build Relationships
- Believe in Experimentation
- Take Risks
- Embrace Failure
- Seek Growth Opportunities