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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

The Manager and Leader As Two Different Job Functions


One big challenge we see with organizations and individuals is the lack of intention around the role of a manager or a leader.

Marcus Buckingham provides the clearest distinction I’ve seen:

  • Job of a Manager: Turn talent into performance. To make other people more productive.
  • Job of a Leader: Rally people to a better future.

Separating the two jobs is not to say that one person can’t perform both jobs (although, most strong leaders don’t have management as a strength).

Separating the two jobs does more to help senior staff or board members identify and be intentional about each function.

In the field we often see:

  • Great leaders who are poor managers. Often, they don’t understand the distinction between the two and don’t address a management weakness – perhaps because they think that as a leader they must also be great managers.

    Management is not my core strength but I manage every day. Acknowledging the weakness either forces me to find others to manage, or to be more focused (deliberate) in my execution while wearing the ‘manager hat’.

  • People in leadership positions that could lead but don’t – mostly because they’re not aware of the leader’s role. Leaders make decisions. Leaders hold a clear image (the vision) for the future. They see and relate the image of the finish line, not the obstacles.

    In the words of our great friend and leader Bob W, “Leaders Lead!”

  • So called managers who are ‘drained by dealing with other people’. If this describes you, try to get out of managing. If that’s not feasible (due to size, for instance) at least acknowledge the difference and manage your energy accordingly.
  • Uncertainty about leadership – who is it? A leader MUST step up to assume a leadership role. No such thing as passive leadership. One easy question to ask of a team is, “Who is the leader?” Bill Gates once said that a vision must ultimately live in ONE person’s head. Who is that person within your organization? Does that person know it? Do others?

Book recommendation: The One Thing You Need to Know: … About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success. One of my top five biz books of all time.