Leader or Manager – Why Both are Needed


Roy Williams' Monday Morning Memo today is a solid reminder of the important roles of both a leader and a manager. Every business needs both roles in order to grow and thrive.

Williams writes, "The first one grows up to become a manager who believes training to be the key to success. “Go to college. Learn to do things correctly. Get a good job.” The employee who won’t ask for help frustrates the manager."

He adds, "The second person grows up to be a leader who believes initiative to be the key to success. “Start a business. Innovate. Stay a step ahead of the pack.” The employee who won’t make an independent decision frustrates the leader."

Clearly everyone is not a leader and everyone is not a manager. Great organizations require the skills of both, but as Marcus Buckingham writes, "If you lack the core talents [of each role] you will never be able to excel consistently in either [manager or leader]."

Sometimes organizations ask a person to be both. This works in short spurts, but many times someone trying to be something they are not is demoralizing and robs the person of energy to do what they are best suited to do. Whether we ask the manager to be a leader or a leader to be a manager, it's often frustrating and leads to early burnout.

I have a friend who is a natural manager. He understands the details, he loves solving training and employee issues. He runs a very large international organization and when people put the expectation of leader on his shoulders, he crumbles under the pressure and the organization falters. When he's managing, it soars, because that's his gift and where he is fully energized.

Where are you? Leader or manager? The only wrong answer is when you try to be something you are not, or when the organization asks you to be something that robs you of energy and saps your focus.

Once you find out which role best suits you, now look at your organization. Do you have people who are mis-cast? Are there people who are excellent managers who are asked to be leaders? Or, do you have some leaders whom you are asking to be managers? Take some time to inventory your team and see where you could make some changes that would fully utilize a person's natural bent.

Lastly, make a list of "don't dos". I was introduced to this concept several years ago and it's helped me tremendously. At least I can make a choice and know some things that just don't work for me to do and try my best to stay away from them so I don't choke the organization or hinder progress.

Leader or manager? Both are extremely important to organizations.


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