Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Running Head: An In-Depth Comparison of Business Managers versus Business Leaders


In this comparative study, US-based business managers are evaluated against business leaders based on job approach (i.e. what they do) and job results (i.e. how it affects the people around them). The study outcome concludes that employers should carefully consider the need for both leaders and managers based on the job function and desired outcome. Managers manage task and leaders inspire the best in others: you need both individuals to sustain and grow a business. The long-term implications on company culture and employee morale are discussed.


Managers often get short shrift: Leaders are strategic; managers are just tactical. Leaders transform people; managers just administer things. The perception of the manager is just this low-life waiting for an opportunity to lead. This isn’t true. The roles of manager and leader are different, but both are important (Buckingham, 2005). As the generations change in Corporate America – from Baby Boomers to Generation X, there is an evident need to sustain existing as well as grow new business. Hence, there is an increasing demand for employers to develop and promote business managers and business leaders.

The role of a manager is to turn one person’s talents into performance (Buckingham, 2005). Board members are often excellent managers, having years of experience with management functions like planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, and problem solving (Keeshan, 2006). Phil H. Knight, founder of Nike, Inc., is a highly esteemed manager. In January 2005, BusinessWeek Magazine listed him as one of the best managers in America. In the fiscal year ended on May 31, 2004, he is credited for managing Nike from the brink of irrelevance back to the top of the sports apparel market with reported annual earnings of nearly $1 billion, up 27% from the previous year, on 15% higher sales (Businessweek, 2005).

As a leader, you need innate optimism, a belief that things could get better, and the ego to believe that you can make that future come true (Buckingham, 2005). Leaders have the ability to affect results from anywhere in the organization without necessarily being endowed with formal authority. Co-founder of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs, is noted as a charismatic leader that revolutionized the way we use computers and listen to music (Gallo, 2006).

While managers and leaders may obtain the same tangible results (i.e. some end product), the effect they have on company culture, morale, and retention rate are noticeably different. The culture of an organization affects social interaction, levels of trust, risk-taking, fear, anxiety and job security. A bad organizational culture can become endemic, with implications for health at work, individual performance and the economic success of the organization (Bainbridge, 2006). Peter F. Drucker understood the difference between management and leadership when he said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things (Keeshan, 2006).”

Management is defined as the “judicious use of means to accomplish an end,” from Webster’s. Management seeks to control by fear. Roles are rigidly defined with the organization; Management controls the process through which the power of a few small groups instead of total team input (Kumle and Kelly, 2006). A managerial culture emphasizes rationality and control. Whether his or her energies are directed toward goals, resources, organization structures, or people, a manager is a problem solver (Zaleznik, 2004). The distinguishing element of a manager is demand of control and order.

To lead is to “guide someone or something along a way.” As stated in Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary. Leadership is then defined in Webster’s as the “capacity to lead.” Leadership operates in a trust based environment. Employees are empowered by trust and given freedom to fulfill their job responsibilities (Kumle and Kelly, 2006). Today’s leader needs a host of characteristics including an ability to develop a vision, an ability to articulate that vision, honesty, energy, a thirst for learning and commitment. These qualities work hand-in-hand to create the most effective leader today (Buhler, 1995). Leadership is about rallying people to a better future. Great leaders get us to feel the future is possible and better than where we are now. They rally people to make dreams come true (Buckingham, 2005). The distinguishing element of a leader is the ability and willingness to lead without using authority.

This paper details the role of a manager and a leader, explains the difference between the two, and compares the different immediate and long-term impact a manager versus a leader has on employee morale and company culture. Is there a role conflict? Finally the paper will conclude with points that prove both managers and leaders have important roles to play, have the place to be successful in Corporate America, but it is ideal to by a hybrid of the both: a manager and a leader.


The manager asks: “What problems have to be solved, and what are the best ways to achieve results so that people will continue to contribute to this organization?” From this perspective, leadership is simply a practical effort to direct affairs, and to fulfill his or her task, a manager requires that many people operate efficiently at different levels of status and responsibility. It takes neither a genius nor heroism to be a manager, but rather persistence, tough-mindedness, hard work, intelligence, analytical ability, and perhaps most important, tolerance and goodwill (Zaleznik, 2004). Managers keep things moving, leaders are more visionary, looking at things differently (Sweeney, 2001). She goes on to explain, “The best managers keep things moving. They know how to get things done, to run the shop, day-to-day, so to speak. Leaders, on the other hand, are more visionary, looking at things completely differently – strategically, as opposed to tactically.” Managers embrace process, seek stability and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly – sometimes before they fully understand a problem’s significance. Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure in order to understand the issues more fully (Zaleznik, 2004). The discriminating attribute of a manager is one who too often relies on their legitimate power or granted authority by virtue of their role within a company.


Leaders are not afraid to admit their imperfections. In fact, they use their weaknesses as a selling tool for teamwork. By confessing their limitations, they imply that they are human and employees tend to associate more with him. It is also undeniable that followers can feel better if they are offered something to complain about. By sharing at least some of their weaknesses leaders can protect themselves against others inventing potentially more damaging problems (Goffee, 2004).

Good leaders rely extensively on their ability to read situations. They sense an environment, picking up and interpreting soft data without having it spelled out for them. They know when team morale is shaky or when complacency needs challenging. Often they seem to collect this information almost through osmosis (Goffee, 2004).
Commitment is a must-have quality in any successful leader. It helps others to vest in since it can often be transmittable. Few (if any) will vest in a leader who lacks commitment. This commitment must be absolute. It cannot be a half-hearted effort nor can it be inconsistent. This commitment, then, must be sincere and all-encompassing. The truly dedicated leader is often perceived as being consumed or obsessed by the vision or the work at hand (Buhler, 1995).

Leaders create and environment that supports their vision. They develop, persuade, or reinforce their vision to the point that it endures well past its inventor. Leaders have a charismatic ability to motivate managers to implement their vision.
Managers manage and accomplish work through others. Leaders, however, lead and motivate people to higher levels, often giving people purpose to what they do. Leaders inspire as well. Managers tend to be more mechanical (Buhler, 1995). These are the people who have the legitimate authority and corresponding responsibility in the organization yet have that added ingredient to move people beyond what is just minimally acceptable. They inspire people beyond mediocrity. These are the people who visualize the future and are instrumental in shaping that future by getting others to work with them to accomplish those goals (Buhler, 1995).


Most leaders started their careers in a management role that increased in responsibility and authority. For this reason, it is often difficult for the average worker to distinguish between a manager and a leader. The table immediately below summarizes a few of the key differences (Braddick, 1984):

Leaders Are…

  • Visionaries: Examining business situations with regard to future implications.
  • Collaborators: Develops the corporate culture of the organization.
  • Salespeople: Encourages others within the organization to participate in decision making.
  • Negotiators: Reacts to change positively and is able to make the tough decisions.

Managers are…

  • Captains: Develops a personal knowledge of all aspects of the business.
  • Analysts: Uses sharp analytical skills to gather information and make educated decisions.
  • Conductors: Able to balance individual, departmental, and organizational goals.
  • Controllers: Never loses focus of monitoring results, trends, resources, striving always to meet or exceed professional goals.

Managers tend to concentrate on short-range perspectives while leaders focus on the long-term goal. Managers concentrate on the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of business operations while leaders focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ or business operations.

According to Zaleznik, a manager’s goals arise out of necessity rather than desire, and managers excel at diffusing conflict between individuals or departments, placating all sides while ensuring that an organizations day-to-day business is done (Stanley, 2006). Leader’s goals, on the other hand, arise from a personal and passionate desire to infuse meaning into the world. Leaders focus on people and meaning but managers, while they like to work with people, tend to maintain low levels of emotional involvement and can refrain from assuming that the meaning of events can be understood. Leaders tend to be solitary, proactive, intuitive, emphatic and attracted to situations of high risk. Management tends be involved with planning and budgeting, setting goals and targets, organizing and staffing, controlling, problem solving, and coping with complexity.

Leadership is an influence relationship; management is an authority relationship. Leadership establishes direction by developing a vision for the future. Additionally, leadership communicates vision and aligns people’s energy with that vision. Management, on the other hand, establishes structure and delegates authority and responsibility. It also monitors results, adjusts plans and solves problems. Leadership and management are separate and distinct processes, but both are essential to organizational effectiveness (DeGrosky, 2006).


Organizations need both managers and leaders (Buhler, 1995). The task issues are often handled by managers to simply get the job done. Leaders take this one step further. That category of overlap where managers are also leaders is sorely needed in every organization (Buhler, 1995). Managers would do well to realize that a job title or delegated endowment of authority does not make you a leader. Managers are appointed while the title of leader is earned. For any organization to be successful, it must have both capable managers and inspiring leaders within its ranks (Braddick, 1984). Leaders and managers need each other, and are powerless without each other. Leaders need people who can carry out the organization’s vision and goals. Managers need leaders who establish the organization’s direction and align, motivate, and inspire people to work toward the desired outcome (Keeshan, 2006).

In summary, organizations need both efficient managers and inspiring leaders to succeed. Effective organizations have a hybrid of managers and leaders working together to accomplish specific business needs. Managers are budgeting, planning, organizing, staffing, controlling outcomes, and solving technical problems to achieve measurable results. Leaders are establishing and communicating clear direction for the future, aligning people’s efforts with that direction, and motivating people with the organization to overcome obstacles to change and transform the organization as necessary (DeGrosky, 2006).

Tony Sapienza, General Motors business communications integrator at Detroit Hamtramck Assembly, said, “If you’re lucky, you’ll learn the difference between being a boss and being a leader, which meaning learning how you can help those you manage grow while you learn from them (Brown, 2006).” While managers and leaders are both successful, it’s better to be a hybrid of the two.

Author: Troi Taylor
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