Managers vs Leaders

On a recent thread on the general@incubator list at Apache, Niclas Hedhman pointed out a very interesting list of differences between Managers and Leaders from Wikipedia. I really like this list:

  • Management involves power by position.
  • Leadership involves power by influence.

and specifically these distinctions:

  • Managers administer; leaders innovate.
  • Managers ask how and when; leaders ask what and why.
  • Managers focus on systems; leaders focus on people.
  • Managers do things right; leaders do the right things.
  • Managers maintain; leaders develop.
  • Managers rely on control; leaders inspire trust.
  • Managers have short-term perspective; leaders have long-term perspective.
  • Managers accept the status-quo; leaders challenge the status-quo.
  • Managers have an eye on the bottom line; leaders have an eye on the horizon.
  • Managers imitate; leaders originate.
  • Managers emulate the classic good soldier; leaders are their own person.
  • Managers copy; leaders show originality.

I REALLY like that list. It definitely sums up the causes of many of my “problems” when dealing with “managers” in the past (and present). I definitely tend to fall into the “leader” roll and generally have trouble trying to see the other side of the situations. I readily admit that. But I think it’s also very important to have both types of people represented. One or the other and things don’t happen, or at least not well. It takes a good balance.

So, which do YOU strive to be? A “Leader” or a “Manager”?

5 thoughts on “Managers vs Leaders

  1. That is a nice list.

    One point you made me think of is whether you can accurately gauge your role from your own frame of reference, or would you need to poll the folks that you work with in order to make a determination.

  2. @Kyle true, I think only a 360 evaluation will help you truly assess your own performance. Unless you have incredible self-awareness, a self-rating may be misleadingly subjective.

    Dan, it is a great list that illustrates the extremes across many dimensions. I think it’s also important to realise that these are not binaries, but continuums. The management grid on the wiki page illustrates this (

  3. I PERSONALLY think that if you are close to one of the extremes, you can more or less gage your role. It’s the folks in the middle that may need a more complete evaluation.

    Kind of like in the political spectrums where a “conservative democrat” or “liberal republican” may overlap a bit.

  4. hi dan,

    this list suggest that leaders are better or more valuable than managers.

    i would strive for a more symbiotic relationship: the leaders have the heads in the cloud and the managers have the feet on the ground. managers are not creative/innovative. they are orchestrators, not composers, but to make music and not just noise, both are needed :).

    regards …
    roland (the most of the time manager and sometimes leader :))

  5. Hi Dan,
    Your blog post came up when I was looking (googling) for design patterns for leader/followers (multi threading).

    Not helpful for what Im looking for – but nice post 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *