P. Fisher, Ph.D.
As you may know, there is considerable
discussion in the literature and at various forums about factors that
distinguish a “Leader” from a “Manager”. Many people make no
that a person in a management position must be a leader as that is
the position. Such people confuse “positionship” with “leadership”, for
mere occupancy of a position does not guarantee real leadership.
have known a person who had a lofty position (and title and trappings
with it) who was not a leader and every subordinate knew it. In
people consider a leader to be a good manager, believing that, by
leader must have superior management skills. Such people confuse
“process” which are entirely different concepts. Perhaps you have known
who was a visionary, but did not have particularly good management
Certainly it is ideal if one person embodies all the qualities of
management, but such individuals are rare. Most of us “lean” toward one
function or the other (right brain/left brain theory) but we can and do
“crossover” and back from time to time. Nevertheless, it is interesting
a few of the characteristics that distinguish “leadership thinking”
- Managers tend
to focus on the immediate situation as they function in the present and
are usually measured in this way. While they are peripherally aware of
the future, they really don’t spend a lot of time contemplating it.
Leaders, on the other hand, do look to the long term, realizing that
the present is a fulcrum future direction and results. If they were
chess players they would be thinking several moves ahead. Leaders
mostly think strategically, managers mostly think tactically.
- Managers focus
on the process of management and immediate efficiency more than leaders
do. Leaders think about how they invest their time creatively and
surround themselves with, and develop, the strongest talent so that
those talented people can grow and do more and more over time. Leaders
believe that if they do so, their people will do a better job of
watching and improving the processes than the leader could do himself
understand that compensation is a satisfier, not a true motivator. Once
this satisfier is in place at an acceptable level, people are motivated
by the nature of the work, the challenges, opportunities to learn and
grow, and whether or not their bosses support and care about them.
Managers, on the other hand, often think of their subordinates as
responding best to financial rewards and incentives. Did you ever know
people who hated their jobs even though they were highly compensated?
Many managers also project, perhaps subconsciously, that “I am officer
material” and subordinates are “enlisted material”.
- Someone once
said that “Managers get work done through other people,” but leaders
“develop people through work”. Since leaders need to know what “makes
people tick”, they want to know a subordinate’s long term goals and
aspirations so they can fashion ways to combine personal goals with the
work at hand, as well as the organization’s goals. The current buzzword
for this is “alignment”. For any given project it may be less important
to know people’s long term goals, but for organizational growth and
success it is necessary over a period of time. Leaders tend to be
contemplative and social, managers are often impatient and mentally
recognize that individuals are motivated differently and so consistency
is not an absolute virtue in their recognition of people. Some people
may like public praise, others may appreciate the opportunity for more
flexible time, for example. Managers emphasize systems more than they
do people or personalities. Many manages do not recognize that a policy
is not a regulation and “hide” behind policy when a vexing situation
arises, wherein the right thing to do is to deviate from established
- Managers tend
to think more about what has been done before and try to make
incremental improvements, while leaders like to challenge themselves
and their people to bring out their best in ways they never thought
possible, so quantum leaps can occur. They establish new paradigms.
- A manager’s
priority, from which he or she usually derives the most satisfaction,
is based on process and efficiency. “Getting it done” is their byword.
Leaders enjoy success too, of course, but tend to revel in it more when
it leads to growth of individuals and the organization. Their greatest
satisfaction comes from having others who succeed them rise to greater
heights than they did.
- Leaders use
time as a reward and seek to invest their attention where it can have
the most upside impact. People usually have the most opportunity to
grow and become truly great where they already demonstrate strong
performance, and so leaders tend to avoid remedial projects or the
constant oversight of weaker performers. Instead, they spend more of
their time with the people most likely to bring the greatest advances
in the future. Managers tend to focus more on problems to solve than
they do in boosting people to previously unachieved excellence. Leaders
are “fire lighters” (passion), managers are “fire fighters.”
- Leaders try to
get to know people and understand them in a personal way without being
invasive or inappropriate. They evidence compassion as well as
objectivity in their decision making. Many managers tend to be more
“cut and dried” in their working relationships, which can be perceived
as insensitivity. Leaders “think with a cool head and a warm heart, not
a hot head and a cold heart.”
- Some of the
best managers are very good at studying “best practices” and ways to
“build a better mousetrap”. Leaders tend to look for more of the
“Einsteins” and star performers who are likely to find a better
alternative to eliminating mice than the snap trap. Leaders possess and
look for creativity. Managers are more conformity minded.
- Leaders are
all about finding and cultivating talent and are not threatened by it.
Managers usually want to feel more in control of their surroundings,
not the least of all because highly talented people can be very
independent and often “difficult to manage”. Leaders often have
stronger social skills than managers do and are better prepared to deal
with strong egos. Many managers lean toward inflexibility.
- As headstrong
as many leaders can be, they know from experience that being headstrong
can be a liability, and they have learned to listen and be accepting of
other’s points of view. Managers may be more focused on what they
believe to be the “right way” to do something and may be less open to
hearing divergent views. Leaders may not always enjoy hearing opposite
views, but they evidence the concept of “let the best idea win.”
The foregoing is not “cast in stone”, of course.
There are few people who are “complete leaders” and few who are
managers”. Regard these characteristics as being on a scale list as it
important to know which is which. Think like a leader when leadership
for, think like a manager when management is required.
William P. Fisher, Ph.D., a member of Cayuga Hospitality Advisors,
the Darden Chair in the Rosen
College of Hospitality
Management at the University
of Central Florida in Orlando.
A former CEO of the National Restaurant Association and the
Hotel and Lodging Association he is the recipient of numerous awards
the CHRIE Educator of the Year and the Michael E. Hurst Award for
Excellence, and is a Diplomat of the National Restaurant Association's
Educational Foundation. An author and noted speaker, he serves on
corporate boards in concert with his consulting assignments.
former U.S. Air Force Officer, he is a graduate of the Cornell School
of Hotel Administration. He is also a member of Cayuga’s Food and Beverage
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