Manager or Leader?

Posted by on August 21, 2013

A Monday Morning Memo from The Wizard of Ads

Condensed from the 1977 writings of Abraham Zaleznik,
Professor of Social Psychology of Management at Harvard Business School,
and the 1986 writings of Michael S. Packer.

Managers and leaders are two very different types of people with very different strengths and abilities, yet most of us fail to recognize the difference and we consequently lump both into a single category.

Knowing how to identify managers and leaders, when to employ them, and how to use them is one of the key secrets to a profitable, smooth running organization. Managers and leaders have very different attitudes toward their goals, careers, and relationships.

Managerial goals tend to arise out of necessities rather than desires, and managers tend to adopt reactive attitudes about goals. The manager type identifies existing needs, then satisfies those needs.

The leader type creates the need, then fills it. Leaders are active instead of reactive, shaping ideas instead of responding to them. The net result of the leader’s influence is to change the way people think about what is desirable, possible, and necessary.

Managers and leaders differ in their conceptions of work. Managers view work as a process that enables a group of people to share ideas, develop strategies, and make decisions. Managers assist the process by employing a variety of skills including balancing, timing, bargaining, and negotiating. When things are running smoothly, a manager type is needed to keep problems from arising. (Leaders are not needed to fix things that are not broken.)

While managers act to limit choices and maintain the status quo, leaders work in the opposite direction to develop fresh approaches and open up new issues for options. Leaders work from high-risk positions and are often prone to seek out risk and danger, especially where opportunity and reward appear high.

The manager’s sense of self, as guide to conduct and attitude, derives from a feeling of being at home and in harmony with one’s environment. Managers see themselves as conservators of the business, protectors of the institution, guardians of the style guide and regulators of existing policies. They coordinate and balance the needs of their various departments, execute strategies and administrate.

Leaders tend to be people who have not had an easy time of it. From childhood, their lives are often marked by ups and downs and a continual struggle to attain a sense of order. Unlike managers, they cannot take things for granted. Instead of feeling at home in their world, a leader’s sense of self derives from a feeling of profound separateness. They may work for you, but never belong to your company. Yet in a crisis, the leader is the one who will create success where no one else could find it.

Managers and leaders are very different types. Knowing how to identify them,
where to find them and when to employ a manager or leader could mean the difference between success and struggle in your business.

Food for thought.

Roy H. Williams

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