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Why Managers and Leaders Are Not One In The Same

President Of TrainSmart, Inc.

Discussing why being a manager is not the same thing as being a leader often feels as futile as having a conversation about that age old conundrum, “Which came first the chicken or the egg?”

Ok It is a self- made confusion. Part of the problem is popular business culture uses the two words as synonyms. They do not mean the same thing. Then there is the trend in corporate America to have Leadership Attributes. It is popular in corporate America to say things like “Everyone is a leader. And as our people grow as leaders, our company grows.”

Organizations spend millions of dollars developing Leadership Attributes that they use to evaluate their “leaders.” However, everyone is not a leader- nor should they be.

In many organizations the term “leader” has been co-opted, replacing more traditional titles like Vice President, or Director. Now, organizations have a business “leader.” However, depending on the organization, the leader may actually be a manager. And so the confusion grows.

If that didn’t muddy the waters enough, there are varying definitions of what leadership is .It’s not as simple as “You say tomato and I say toma-toh.”

Here’s a sample:

From Harvard Business Professor and best -selling author Dr. John Kotter, “management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving. [..]Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change.”

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, defines leadership differently, He says, “I draw a very clear distinction between leadership and management. For me, leadership is the ability to inspire others o achieve shared objectives. Managers tell people what to do. Leaders inspire them to do it.”

Peter Drucker succinctly said, “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.” Organizations need both great managers and great leaders. The skills needed to be a great manager do not necessarily translate into great leadership. That’s where many organizations trip up. They promote great managers into positions that require a different skill set– being able to see future opportunities and produce useful change is a gift few have. Or worse, they simply give people the title of Leader but expect them to perform as a manager.

Why do you think businesses have started using these two words interchangeably and what, if any, danger do you see in the blurring of understanding of the two roles?