“I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but there seems to be some general confusion surrounding the term “leaders” and “managers”. 

Often, the two words are used interchangeably, but the meaning, role, and functions of these two words could not be more different!

I believe the difference between the two words can be explained in a nut shell, “if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day (manager).  If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime (leader).”

We often recall wonderful leaders that we’ve had in our lives.  Seldom, however, do we think of good managers.  When we think of a management expert, we think of someone who can focus and execute plans.  They KNOW their systems.  They put the right people in the right place doing the right jobs.  All good stuff!  Why then do so many people give “managers” a bad rap when considering them compared to leaders? The two are a symbiotic relationship.  A leader without management skills will usually stand around wondering where all his or her “followers” went.  A manager without good leadership skills will perpetually struggle to get his or her people to achieve their potential.

So, lets take a look at some comparisons between things “managers” do and things “leaders” do.

·      First the obvious:  Managers manage things while leaders lead people.

·      Managers point the way, while leaders encourage progress.

·      Managers tell you the “right” way to do things, while leaders encourage you to find YOUR way to do things effectively.

·      Managers do things the right way, while leaders do the right things.

·      Managers are quick to point out what you’re doing wrong, while leaders provide guidance on the right things.

·      Managers answer questions, leaders make you question yourself.

·      Managers identify problems while leaders develop solutions.

·      Managers execute against plans, leaders develop plans to be executed.

·      Managers reflect the company attitude while leaders help you develop a positive attitude.

·      Managers know their job (and yours), while leaders develop their career (and yours).

·      Managers will respond to new ideas with reasons they won’t work, or why they will not fit into an established process, while leaders ask “How can we make this work?”

Now, don’t get us wrong, there is a place for both leaders and managers in the business world.  In fact, the world of industry, society, and non-profit NEEDS both.  Leaders need managers.  Managers need leaders.  The organization that realizes the value in both and can merge these two types of “people builders” is the organization that is truly ready for their next big challenge.   So, next time you’re trying to decide whether you’re managing or leading your subordinates, ask yourself, “am I giving him a fish, or teaching him to fish.”


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