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Are you more of a leader or a manager?

This may be one of the most important questions we have to answer as our careers take us to new roles.

Every organization needs both. There is no shame in either answer, but it’s important we know the difference. We need to figure out which one we do best and then try to arrange our career where we can realize our best potential.

There are lots of descriptions of each role. I’ve written about it numerous times. And, I understand some argue they are the same. But, I simply don’t believe it.

In the book “Reviewing Leadership”, the authors Banks and Ledbetter write, “Leadership and management are two distinct yet related systems of action. They are similar in that each involves influence as a way to move ideas forward, and both involve working with people. Both are also concerned with end results. Yet the overriding functions of leadership and management are distinct. Management is about coping with complexity – it is responsive. Leadership is about coping with change – it too is responsive, but mostly it is proactive. More chaos demands more management, and more change always demands more leadership. In general, the purpose of management is to provide order and consistency to organizations, while the primary function of leadershp is to produce change and movement.”

I think that’s a great summary of the differences between leadership and management for organizations and individuals to consider.

Too many times we ask good managers to be great leaders or good leaders to be great managers. The problem with being in the wrong fit is we tend to burn out more quickly when we are not able to live out our giftedness. In addition, we frustrate the people we are supposed to be leading or managing and ultimately we keep the organization from being the best it can be.

Do a self-evaluation of which you are more skilled at doing.

Are you a better leader or a better manager?

Don’t try to be someone you are not.

Through experience I’ve learned I identify with one of these roles more than the other. One description fires me up and the other drains me. (Can you guess which one fires me up?) One comes more naturally for me and the other I struggle to learn – and attempt to delegate when possible.

What about you? Are you in your proper fit? Do you see the difference?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • David Reneau says:

    I’ve gone back and forth on leader/manager. I’m not sure which one I am given your definition. Can you describe the difference a little more?

  • Jim Pemberton says:

    To be sure, most people need to do a little of both and understanding the difference is a good way to know what to defer to your supervising leader by managing and what to develop as a leader because it’s a detail that has been delegated to you. So middle management leadership is a matter of scale and propriety.

    That’s more theoretical, but “leading up” wisely often is necessary where you notice an area where your supervisor isn’t leading and taking the responsibility to lead in a posture of future deference in the event that your supervisor decides to come on board. This is a usually a mitigated leadership that is limited by the authority of your position. Unfortunately, this can create as much stress as being ineffectively micromanaged.

  • Expose very meaningful because I think that’s a great summary of the differences between leadership and management for organizations and individuals to consider. After all I am so pleased and benefited to get there this concept of Leader or Manager for a company at all. Thanks and inform like this…

  • pastor gene says:

    Ron, hope you will extend your personal ministry here in our country Philippines particularly here in Mindanao

  • pastor gene says:

    we thank you this views it helps much to those in needs…

  • Every leader needs a manager who's onboard with him/her

  • Eric Barron says:

    Spot on! Not many people acknowledge the important roles managers play in an organizational structure. Being misplaced in leadership or management can be very damaging to the organization, and can so immobilize the employees (business world) or ministers (church world) that they give up on what could be…

  • Eric

    Ron, this was a great post. To be honest, it was refreshing to read. I've read too many articles and books lately that criticized managers for not being better leaders. I know everyone can learn to be a better leader but some are wired up to be good managers. For once, someone encouraged people to live up to their gifting and calling and not what sells another book!

  • Neal MD says:

    That manager that's trying to be my leader is burning me out!

  • Hunter Burney says:

    Good stuff Ron! No question you are more inspired by being a leader.