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The Difference between Managers and Leaders

20 January, 2016 - 16:32

Warren Bennis famously wrote in his book On Becoming a Leader that a manager does things right and leaders do the right thing. 1 Like other leadership scholars, Bennis makes a clear distinction between leadership and management and between managers and leaders. A manager’s behavior and activities focus on controlling, planning, coordinating, and organizing. This differs from a leader, whose behaviors and tasks focus on innovation, vision, motivation, trust, and change. 2

Table 2.1 Difference Between Management and Leadership.



Cope with complexity by…

Cope with change by…

planning for goals

setting direction

budgeting for goals

developing a future

establishing agendas and tasks

having a strategic vision for change

organizing roles and responsibilities

aligning of people

structuring staff and jobs

communicating direction

delegating people

creating coalitions

monitoring and implementing results

being commitment focused

identifying deviations

motivating and inspiring

planning and organizing to solve problems

leveraging human value and potential

Note: Adapted from Kotter, What Leaders Really Do (1999). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Review.

Cultural intelligence requires leadership, not management. It calls for what Ronald Heifetz 3 defines as courageous leadership, that is, the courage to see reality and help others see their realities: the realities of who they are, how they behave, what talents and skill sets they have or are missing in this global world, and what opportunities should be capitalized upon and seized. Leaders must be able to see and anticipate what skill sets are needed in the future, not just develop their employees’ skills for the moment. 4

Culturally intelligent leaders must create an environment where diversity and culture flourish, and where conflicting values can be safely expressed and explored through dialogue. Barry Salzberg, CEO of Deloitte, says that organizations and leaders must ask themselves the hard questions: Does our corporate culture really accept the differences it invites, and do we really embrace the different perspectives that come from increasing our commitment to recruiting? 5 This type of perspective demands leaders who work toward transformation, or what Couto calls citizen leaders, “transforming leaders who engage others in efforts to reach higher levels of human awareness and relationships.” 6