Monster Thinking

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January 2013

Leaders Vs. Managers: Like Apples to Doorknobs

For as long as I can remember, people have been hashing out arguments over leaders vs. managers. I’ve wrestled with this question, even studying it in my graduate work in organizational leadership.  Recently I’ve grown disillusioned as I see a growing trend towards leaders being these visionary geniuses while managers are relegated to corporate drones who wallow in the mire of organizational politics.  One has to be better than the other and when compared apples to apples, leaders are superior to managers. However I’ve finally figured out the difference and realized that they are two very separate entities and cannot be compared to each other.  It’s like comparing apples to door knobs.  Here is the correct pairing: Leaders/Followers Managers/Subordinates Attributes of Leaders
  • Take charge of things.
  • Come up with answers to perplexing questions.
  • Establish a strong network of resources.
  • Provide a way out of a confusing situation.
  • People you go to when you can’t figure something out yourself.
Attributes of Managers
  • Provide structure and order.
  • Master technical details and teach them to others.
  • Provide sound judgment and critical thinking.
  • Possess the right interpersonal skills to gain consensus and get the job done.
Both are important and the correct audience for these individuals then follows what they need. Followers are people who might be successful in task or career but don’t possess the necessary assertiveness to proactively solve problems or think strategically.  There’s nothing wrong with them.  The simply gravitate towards leaders who are comfortable in difficult situations and can provide the solutions followers require. Subordinates are the technical experts and individual contributors that provide the substance of an organization.  Typically, they take comfort in a position where their expertise is needed and appreciated.  They might not have aspirations to supervise and depend on managers to provide the structure in which they thrive. Neither of the four is better or worse.  They simply exist. Fortunately, you can choose which of these you’d like to be.  You can choose to be a leader or a follower.  You can be a manager or a subordinate.  Just don’t confuse them with each other or think of one as better than another.  If you’re comparing them, compare them correctly. Which one are you?
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