Leaders Learn: Managers and Leaders

The Internet is littered with memes or tweets and blog posts incorrectly comparing managers and leaders that usually denigrate the former while praising the latter.  If not disparaging, then the message is usually aligned with the idea of Bennis and Nanus (1985, p.21) that “Managers are people who do things right while leaders are people who do the right things.”


image credits
Note: Much of the information presented in this article is taken from Gary Yukl’s book,  Leadership in Organizations)

The truth is both leadership and management are both necessary for any organization and intertwined enough to be nearly inseparable.  When asked about which was more important management or leadership, leadership expert Sam Chand shared once shared with me, “Which wing of the airplane is more important?”

While it is possible to be a leader without a formal manager title and there are managers who do not lead, the research does not support the that individuals can be sorted into two distinct stereotypes (Yukl, p. 6). Further, since manager is a common title for employees, it does not make sense to needlessly diminish their contributions (Yukl, p.6).

What is leadership?

Leadership is the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives. (Yukl, p.7)

What is management?

  • Understanding the reasons for demands and constraints
  • Determining what you want to accomplish
  • Analyzing how you use your time
  • Planning daily and weekly activities
  • Avoiding unnecessary activities
  • Conquering procrastination
  • Making time for reflective planning
  • Identifying important problems that can be solved
  • Looking for connections among problems
  • Experimenting with innovative solution
List adapted from (Yukl, p.40)

Bennis, W. G., & Nanus, B. (1985). Leaders: The strategies for taking charge. New York: Harper & Row.

Yukl, G. (2013). Leadership in Organizations, 8th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall