How to Know if You’re a Manager or a Leader

You’re not managing just because you run meetings or have a title.

You might own the place, but that doesn’t make you a leader.

Think of leadership and management as distinct ways of showing up.

Manager or leader:

John Kotter’s book, “That’s Not How We Do it Here!” is a fable that addresses tension between the divergent functions of management and leadership. The following lists are inspired by his work.

You’re managing when you:

  1. Plan and budget.
  2. Solve day-to-day problems.
  3. Track processes and measure results.
  4. Hire, fire, and concern yourself with job descriptions.

You’re leading when you:

  1. Set direction.
  2. Align people.
  3. Inspire.
  4. Seize opportunities.

Insights from Warren Bennis:

“Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.”

  1. You’re managing when you concern yourself with how and when questions.
  2. You’re leading when you concern yourself with what and why questions.

Over-led organizations end up chaotic.

Over-managed organizations end up bureaucratic.

Which is better:

Leaders need managers and managers need leaders. It’s a matter of context. 

  1. Leaders drive change.
  2. Managers require stability to deliver results reliably.

Small organizations in stable environments need manager-leaders. But you can’t manage your way out of a crisis.

Chaotic organizations need management.

Stagnant organizations need leadership.

Vision is a fundamental distinction:

Managers concern themselves with execution. Leaders concern everyone with purpose and direction – vision.

Ask management to craft a vision and they make a five-year plan.

Vision includes the practical question, “Where can the horses in the barn take us if we all pull together and stretched our capacity?” 

“What’s crucial about a vision is not its originality but how well it serves the interests of important constituencies – customers, stockholders, employees—and how easily it can be translated into a realistic competitive strategy.” John Kotter

What is the difference between management and leadership?

How do managers and leaders best relate to each other?

I talked with John Kotter a couple years ago. Perhaps this post will be useful: HOW TO WORK TOGETHER WITHOUT KILLING EACH OTHER

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