In the last week, the comparison of leader vs. manager has popped up a couple of times in my LinkedIn feed usually through a quote that implies that it’s better to be a leader than a manager. Here is one as an example, from someone whose ideas I admire:
Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing. –Tom Peters
While I am hoping that Tom intended to demonstrate the different skills inherent in managing and leading, it is likely taken by most people as an either or statement. If you are a manager, all you do is arrange and tell, but when you are a leader, the choirs sing and the heavens part as you nurture and enhance your team. Most readers would also take those attributes and assign them by proxy to managers and leaders – because surely it’s better to be a leader than a manager.
But in most companies when do you start being a leader? At some executive title that is slightly higher up the food chain than a mere manager? Can a supervisor be a leader? How about a coordinator? Or a customer service representative?
The good news is that you can do both, no matter what your job is.
Leadership and management are skill sets, not titles.
Managers demonstrate leadership skills every day and not at the expense of “arranging and telling”. Most companies would fall apart without a manager that makes the shift schedules and communicates new policies to their team while creating an environment where people are motivated and engaged.
It is true that the balance tips more toward leadership type work the higher you climb the corporate ladder, but even C-suite executives are still spending portions of their day managing – with performance reviews, asset allocation decisions and directives on new product lines.
So yes, there is a difference between being a manager and an executive and one does tend to do more leadership type work than the other. Both are valuable to the organization – precisely because they do the right amount of managing vs leading.
So let’s add an asterisk to Tom’s quote:
Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.** –Tom Peters
**and you should try to do both well.**