Are You a Manager or a Leader?

            I have heard the saying "all leaders are managers, but all managers are not leaders." I have also heard that it is impossible to be both a manager and a leader. I've decided to delve a bit into these statements. By looking deeper into the differences between leaders and managers, those reading this will be able to expand their knowledge of leadership and possibly pinpoint where they fall in the manager – leader curve. At times, a leader can lack the courage or initiative necessary to overcome difficult issues that arise in the workplace. Many leaders do not demonstrate a propensity to lead change, to compel others to follow their leadership en-route to more lofty goals. I have had much success driving my team to make certain metrics, such as on-time performance, hour utilization, complaint ratios and the like. But, early in my career, I found it difficult to step out and tackle the tough issues like employee morale and in-fighting. I think one of the issues that prevented me from taking on those difficult issues was a lack of confidence in my leadership skills. Over time, I developed that confidence, due on a large scale to my obtaining a thorough understanding of the differences between managing and leading. As I delve more into the differences between leaders and managers, I hope others can find the skill set that will help them be a leader not just a manger.

            Gary Yukl, in his 1989 article, Managerial Leadership: A Review of Theory and Research, evaluates major theories of leadership, thus lending background to our discussion. Yukl notes that there are many, many definitions of leadership. It has been defined “in terms of individual traits, leader behavior, interaction patterns, role relationships, follower perceptions, influence over followers, influence on task goals, and influence on organizational culture.”[1] Influence seems to be a common thread but otherwise the definitions vary deeply. Before diving into different leadership theories, Yukl points out his view of the difference between managers and leaders; the “essential difference is that leaders influence commitment, whereas managers merely carry out responsibilities and exercise authority.”[2]

            Yukl then runs through a series of leadership theories. He looks at two theories that delve into how power is gained and lost by leaders. Social Leadership Theory deems that expert power and a higher status are given to someone who solves problems well, makes good decisions, and shows loyalty to the group. This theory also states that failures cause leaders to lose power because it is “attributed to poor judgment, irresponsibility, or pursuit of self-interest at the expense of the group.”[3] The Strategic Contingencies Theory states that leaders gain power by being able to solve complex important problems that contribute to the success of the company. Yukl moves on to discuss the different ways power is exercised by experienced leaders. He points to French and Raven’s Power Typology Theory which states that there are five sources of a leader’s power: legitimate power, reward power, expert power, referent power, and coercive power. Yukl reflects that effective leaders use different sources of power and different influence tactics in different situations. He points out that a leader should have enough power “to make necessary changes, reward subordinates, and punish trouble makers,” but that “too much power entails risk that the leader will rely on it exclusively and neglect other forms of influence such as persuasion, participation, and inspiration.”[4]

            The author goes on to tackle the definition of leader through different approaches. The behavioral approach discusses what managers actually do and how effective certain behaviors are. He points out that many behaviors have been linked to the effectiveness of a manager. While both task-oriented and relationship-oriented behavior are essential for a leader to be effective, “participative leadership sometimes results in higher performance and positive reward behavior has been linked to subordinate satisfaction and performance.”[5]  Several other behaviors are also linked to managerial success: initiating structure, effective planning, and motivating behavior, networking behavior, and monitoring behaviors.

            The Trait Approach discusses personal attributes of leaders and their effectiveness. “Early theories attributed success to the possession of extraordinary abilities, such as tireless energy, penetrating intuition, uncanny foresight, and irresistible persuasive powers.”[6] Research, however, has pointed out that no specific traits guarantee leadership success, although the list of traits that are related is extensive. High self-confidence, energy, initiative, emotional maturity, stress tolerance, and internal locus of control are a few. “Managerial Motivation” is described as “one of the most promising predictors of effectiveness.”[7] Yukl breaks down the components of managerial motivation into a desire for power, a desire to compete with peers, a positive attitude toward authority figures, a strong need for achievement, and a weak need for affiliation.

            There is also a Situational Approach to determining leadership effectiveness. The Demand-Constraints-Choice Theory states that how much time a manager spends with different work groups is dependent on their nature of work and whether it is “self-generating or reactive, repetitive or variable, uncertain or predictable, fragmented, hurried or unhurried.”[8]  According to Yukl, research on the situational effects is not abundant but does affirm that the behavior of leaders is linked to their situation.

            The author dives into nine specific situational leadership theories. First is the Path-Goal Theory which was developed by Robert House in 1971. It basically states that if leaders want to make their subordinates achieve goals they need to make an effort to motivate them. “Leaders motivate higher performance by acting in ways that influence subordinates to believe valued outcomes can be attained by making a serious effort.” [9] The Situational Leadership Theory of Hershey and Blanchard from 1969 relates the amount of time a leader needs to focus on task behavior or relations behavior depends heavily on the maturity level of the subordinate. Yukl states that this theory has “conceptual weaknesses, ambiguous constructs, oversimplification, and a lack of intervening explanatory processes.”[10]

            Leader Substitutes Theory points out that leadership by designated upper leaders is irrelevant in certain situations. Attributes of the employee, the project, and the company can serve as substitutes for leadership or negate the effect of the leader’s direction. Yukl states that this theory has conceptual limitations and that “a sharper focus on explanatory processes would help to differentiate between substitutes that reduce the importance of a leadership behavior and substitutes that involve the same leadership behavior by other than the designated leader.”[11]  The Normative Decision Theory proposed by Peter Blau proposes conditions under which leaders should make decisions on their own or as a group. It theorizes that while the individualized decision making process is much quicker, group members become more committed to a decision if they are part of the decision making process.  Yukl notes that this theory was modified in 1988 by Vroom and Jago and prescribes “what not to do, but does not indicate the optimal decision procedure.”[12]   

            Leader Member Exchange Theory focuses on the relationships developed between leader and subordinate. It explains that some direct reports are given a higher level of responsibility and more access to resources. This group is referred to as the “in-group,” and these employees are usually more committed and loyal to their leader. The “out-group” is not given a lot of choices or influence.  According to Yukl, “a special upward LMX exchange relationship” between a leader and his superiors “was found to be a key predictor of a manager’s advancement in an organization.”[13]  The Cognitive Resource Theory looks at whether a leader’s intelligence, experience, or technical expertise is related to a group’s performance. It surmises that they are only related when the task is unstructured and when stress is low.  Yukl next reviews the leadership model he created, the Multiple Linkage Model. This model states that work unit performance depends on six variables including member effort, member ability, organization of work, teamwork and cooperation, availability of essential resources, and external coordination. Yukl criticizes his own theory stating that the “major conceptual weakness of this model is the lack of specific propositions about which leader behaviors influence which variables in which situations.”[14]  

            The last situational leadership model that Yukl reviews is the Leader-Environment-Follower-Interaction Theory which is similar to his model. This theory states that subordinate performance is based on four variables: the subordinate’s ability to do the work, the task’s motivations, whether there are clear role perceptions, and if there is a presence of environmental constraints. This model hypothesizes that a leader can influence direct reports by influencing the four variables. According to Yukl, “effective leaders avoid deficiencies by increasing training or by redesigning the job to match the worker’s skills.”[15]  Good leaders modify the work environment, provide resources, and remove obstacles and constraints.

            Yukl then moves on to transformational leadership theories which centers on charismatic leadership. Transformational leadership according to Yukl “refers to the process of influencing major changes in the attitudes and assumptions of organization members and building commitment for the organization’s mission, objectives and strategy.”[16]  This type of leadership model is measured mostly by outcomes such as a visible change in an organization’s culture. Transformational leadership entices and empowers employees to change the organization from within. The Merriam Webster definition of charisma is “a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure.”[17] Charismatic leadership follows this definition fairly close, it is “the perception that a leader possesses a divinely inspired gift and is somehow unique and larger than life.”[18]  This is a little deeper than the effect of a transformational leader. The follower of a charismatic leader trusts and respects them, just as they would a transformational leader, but can tend to take things a bit further by idolizing them and following blindly.

            House’s 1976 Charismatic Leadership Theory is the first leadership theory that really places significance on vision and the effects of being a visionary leader. The theory postulates that a good charismatic leader “practices good impression management to maintain follower’s confidence and articulation of an appealing vision that defines the task in terms of ideological goals.”[19]  House stated that “through the articulation of a transcendent goal the leader is assumed to clarify or specify a mission for the followers.”[20] He goes on to say that the leader inspires self-confidence in his followers and gets them to set lofty goals and have greater confidence in their ability to achieve them.  House delves a bit into the idea of vision. He states that visionary goals are about what the future could be like if you move toward the vision. It must be a “common vision that must reflect goals or a future state of affairs that is valued by the organization’s members and thus important to them to bring about.”[21]  House goes on to say that leaders who display a high level of confidence in themselves and in the ability of their followers to meet the high expectations set actually enhance their followers’ self-esteem, which boosts their confidence in themselves which leads to a higher likelihood of successful completion of said goals. “The combination of leader’s confidence and high expectations, rather than high expectations alone, should be emphasized here. It is possible that leaders might set high performance standards thus implying high expectations of subordinates, while at the same time showing low confidence in the subordinate’s ability to meet such expectations.”[22]  He goes on to say that charismatic leaders stand out from other leaders by showing some or all of the following four characteristics: “dominance, self-confidence, need for influence, and a strong conviction in the moral righteousness of his or her beliefs.”[23]  He adds that charismatic leaders employ these characteristics during “goal articulation, role modeling, personal image building, demonstration of confidence and high expectation for followers, and motive arousal behaviors.”[24]  By displaying these characteristics the leader builds his follower’s trust and increases their obedience to his direction.  This theory by House seems to be the first to link having a vision and delivering it charismatically to being an effective leader.

            Yukl reviews Conger and Kanungo’s Charismatic Theory next noting that it also points to charismatic leaders outlining a vision to their followers. He notes that “followers attribute charismatic qualities to a leader based on their observations of the leader’s behavior and outcomes associated with it.”[25]  These behaviors include “enthusiastically advocating an appealing vision that is highly discrepant from the status quo, yet still within the latitude of follower acceptance.”[26]  This theory delves a bit into certain traits that enhance a leader’s charisma, notably “social sensitivity and empathy required to understand the needs and values of followers.”[27]  It is also pointed out that charismatic leaders tend to rely mostly on expert and referent power than on authority. This theory also states that charismatic leaders usually emerge during a crisis. 

            Burn’s Theory of Transformational Leadership discusses leadership and how leaders modify their behavior depending on the level of followers’ responsiveness or resistance. Leaders appeal to their subordinates’ self-interests in order to get buy in. They also tend to use lofty ideas and values such as liberty, peace, equality, and justice to drive their point home. Bass’ Theory of transformational Leadership runs much along the same lines as Burn’s. This theory also points to the use of lofty ideals in motivation strategies “by activating [subordinates] higher order needs, and inducing them to transcend self-interest for the sake of the organization.”[28]

            Yukl concludes by reminding the reader that there are many different points of view regarding leadership and that there is no concrete proof linking certain character traits to exceptional leadership. He points toward the transformational leadership theories as the most likely to succeed in attaining subordinate buy-in. “The need to empower subordinates and develop a sense of ownership for what goes on in the organization echoes the emphasis on power sharing, mutual trust, and participative decision making. The emphasis on developing human potential and activating higher order needs in the service of the organization echoes the concern for quality of work and supportive relationships.”[29]

            A more contemporary view regarding this subject is given by James Kotterman in his essay Leadership Versus Management: What’s The Difference written in 2006. He attempts to define whether there is really a difference or just different styles. Kotterman determines that effectiveness of leaders should be based on their effectiveness ratings as given by their subordinates.  He points out the age old problem of a lack of a clear definition of leadership; “if you can’t define leadership or management, you can’t measure, test, make assessments, or consistently hire or promote for them.”[30]  He mentions Burn’s and Bass’ Transformational Leadership Theories popularity but points out that they have not been given the status of a uniformly agreed upon theory. There are still many disagreements regarding leadership and management theory. Part of the issue seems to stem from the fact that the two terms, leadership and management are used interchangeably in the workplace and their meanings are blurred. Kotterman points to the commonality that “leadership terms are co-mingled with workplace management terms in a manner that contradicts the way researchers use them.”[31]

            He then compares different theorist’s views regarding the differences between leadership and management. He points out Gardner’s distinction between a leader manager and a routine manager. “The leader manager is concerned with thinking in the long-term, developing an organizational vision, reaching longer term goals and values, and motivating others whereas the routine manager is more strongly associated with the organizational structure, acting in the short-term, accepting and maintaining the status quo.”[32]  Kotterman expands on Gardner’s assessment by stating that “Managers take responsibility for processes and are constantly seeking to improve them. Leaders, on the other hand, are looking into the future from 50,000 feet in anticipation of the organization’s global needs and long-term future.”[33] 

            Kotterman concludes that management is more tactical and about handling short-term issues whereas leadership is more strategic and long-term.  Kotterman makes the distinction that it is very difficult to be both an inspiring leader and a competent manager. He suggests that corporations need to stop looking to populate their organization with a whole lot of leaders but instead obtain “a few great leaders and many first class managers.”[34]  He believes that this strategy would be much more effective. He notes that having “multiple leaders with different visions not only can confuse but also can decrease subordinate’s vision. Additionally, if everyone is focused on leading, no one is managing the process or doing the work.”[35]

            Kotterman has a very good chart in this article that helps define the differences between Management and Leadership.



This chart points out the differences in management and leadership quite well and highlights how developing a vision, communicating it with vigor, and inspiring subordinates with that vision “energizes employees to overcome barriers to change.”[37]  Leaders deliver the vision; managers simply manage it.

            E.L. Zimmerman in 2001 commented on the difference between leadership and management in his article  “What’s under the Hood? The Mechanics of Leadership versus Management.” Zimmerman defines four elements of leadership: visionary, collaborator, salesperson, and negotiator.  He speaks of the visionary as one who “articulates a strategic direction for the enterprise in a clear compelling manner, the leader fosters relationships founded on trust and respect with all stakeholders, not just the shareholders.”[38]  He goes on to define the collaborator as a leader who “sets an example and leads through it.” He calls this “collaborating the vision.”[39]  The collaborator is a leader who is good at giving feedback that is encouraging and supportive, recognizes achievements, and mentors employees.  The salesperson character trait of the leader is when a leader “demonstrates a charismatic self-assurance of ideas, judgments and capabilities, a leader who tactically influences others through participation in all processes and decision making.”[40]  The negotiator aspect rolls with the changes and reacts accordingly. He retains a positive outlook and works to develop imaginative solutions to issues.

            Zimmerman contrasts the elements of leadership with those of management, listing the elements of a manager as captain, analyst, conductor, and controller. The captain develops and applies policies, interprets regulations and procedures, sets priorities, and utilizes resources effectively. The Analyst gathers information and makes an in-depth analysis of a situation before making a decision. The analyst also administers a reward system to motivate employees. The conductor manages the daily process, making adjustments when necessary, while the controller monitors the company’s goals and assures attainment. Zimmerman concludes that “both leaders and managers have a common element of attaining goals; what sets one manager apart from another is whether he/she chooses to lead, manage or combine the best elements of both disciplines most needed for optimal results.”[41]

            John Ryan recently discussed the Three Fundamentals of Effective Leadership in Forbes Magazine. He points to three “critically important skills: driven by an inspiring vision of success, excelled at communication, and exercised superior judgment.”[42] He says that leaders who succeed have deep passions that can capture the minds of others.  According to Ryan a “compelling vision inspires, clarifies, and focuses the work of individuals—and preferably entire organizations—for a lengthy span of time.”[43]  He offers some guidance on vision creation, stating that it doesn’t need to be a grand vision, just something that garners the excitement of the leader and his subordinates. He goes on to say that developing a vision is one thing, but the vision must be communicated effectively. I translated this to mean that the leader must be out there, talking the talk, leading the charge, and also listening to feedback. The fourth aspect that Ryan puts forth is that of exercising good judgment when making decisions. “Your judgment calls, which are rooted in your character, become your legacy.”[44]  Be sure that your decisions are bound by good ethics and not selfish, rooted in a desire to advance the priorities of the organization. He also points out the need to have the ability to change directions. Don’t get rooted to a particular course of action; if that course is not working in your judgment, have the courage to change the course.

            Finally, an article that outlines a research study, conducted by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University titled “Following the Vision: New Kellogg Research that Visionary Leaders Attract More Followers, Especially in Times of Crisis,” defines visionary leaders as “exceptional individuals who use their vision as a force of change.”[45]  The study was titled “The Mainstream is not electable: when vision triumphs over representativeness in leader emergence and effectiveness.” It tried to determine whether people wanted a visionary leader or someone similar to the rest of the group’s members. There were five different experiments conducted in which the participants had to choose what direction to follow. The direction was given in a visionary manner from someone charismatic and an alternate choice from someone more representative of the remaining group members.  “Their research is the first to provide direct evidence that when vision and representativeness leadership diverge, vision prevails, especially in crisis situations.”[46]  They “discovered that visionary leaders not only help members regulate their mood following a group crisis, but also inspire them to participate in collective action more than representative leaders.”[47]

            So where does this extensive review of leadership articles leave you? As you think about the articles referenced above, ask yourself, “am I a leader or a manager?” Do you fall high on the leader side of the scale, or are you more of a manager? Do you have the emotional intelligence, the communication and listening skills, and the decision making capabilities to be a great leader? What are you missing? Is it that you lack the ability to come up with a vision? You might be able to follow a vision, have the ability to get buy-in from your subordinates, and to be able to effectively communicate the vision in order to achieve the goal, but why is creating the vision so difficult? Is there something you are lacking? Are you just not reaching deep enough to find it?

 I have located an exercise that can be used to help build skills in vision composition. It is fairly straightforward and can become a kind of template for vision construction. Remember that a vision “does not need to be grandiose, just pick something that matters; something that excites both you and your colleagues.”[48] This exercise comes from the Leadership Challenge course developed by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in 1987. The exercise below comes from one section of the course entitled "Inspiring a Shared Vision."[49] After reviewing this exercise a few times, you will feel better equipped to relate a well-structured vision to your subordinates that will achieve a high level of buy-in. It involves listening to MLKs “I have a dream” speech (attached below). I hope you can take away valuable skills from this exercise and start leading with vision, separating yourself as a true leader from other managers around you.


[1] Yukl, Gary. “Managerial Leadership: A Review of Theory and Research,” Journal of Management 15.2 (1989): 252.

 [2] Ibid. 253.

[3] Ibid. 255.

[4] Ibid. 257.

[5] Ibid. 259.

[6] Ibid. 260.

[7] Ibid. 261.

[8] Ibid. 261.

[9] Ibid. 263.

[10] Ibid. 264.

[11] Ibid. 265.

[12] Ibid. 265. 

[13] Ibid. 266. 

[14] Ibid. 268.

[15] Ibid. 268.

[16] Ibid. 269.

[17] Merriam-Webster Inc. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 1st ed. Springfield, Ma: Merriam Webster Inc., 1995. 88.

[18] Yukl, Gary. “Managerial Leadership: A Review of Theory and Research,” Journal of Management 15.2 (1989): 269.

[19] Ibid.270.

[20] House, Robert J. “A 1976 Theory of Charismatic Leadership,” Faculty of Management Studies Working Paper Series – University of Toronto 76. 06. (1976): 3.  

[21] Ibid. 13.

[22] Ibid. 20.

[23] Ibid. 28.

[24] Ibid. 28.

[25] Yukl, Gary. “Managerial Leadership: A Review of Theory and Research,”  Journal of Management 15.2 (1989): 271.

[26] Ibid. 271.

[27] Ibid. 271.

[28] Ibid. 272.

[29] Ibid. 279.

[30] Kotterman, James. “Leadership Versus Management: What’s the Difference?,” The Journal for Quality & Participation. 29.2.(2006): 13.

[31] Ibid. 14.

[32] Ibid. 15. 

[33] Ibid. 15.

[34] Ibid. 16.

[35] Ibid. 16.

[36] Ibid. 15.

[37] Ibid. 15.

[38] Zimmerman, E.L. “What’s Under the Hood? The Mechanics of Leadership Versus Management,” Supervision. 62.8 (2001): 10.

[39] Ibid. 10.

[40] Ibid. 11.

[41] Ibid. 12.

[42] Ryan, John. "The Three Fundamentals of Effective Leadership." Center for Creative Leadership. Forbes, 29 Apr 2009. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. 1. <http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/29/vision-communication-judgment-leadership-managing-ccl.html>.

[43] Ibid. 2.

[44] Ibid. 2.

[45] Kellogg School of management, "Following the Vision." States News Service. (16 Nay 2011): Print. 1.

[46] Ibid. 1.

[47] Ibid. 2.

[48] Ryan, John. "The Three Fundamentals of Effective Leadership." Center for Creative Leadership. Forbes, 29 Apr 2009. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. 2.  <http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/29/vision-communication-judgment-leadership-managing-ccl.html>.

[49] Kouzes, James, and Barry Posner. "Inspiring a Shared Vision." The Leadership Challenge Workshop. Tompeters!company, 1999. Print. 37-59.

Robert Pannell,
Dec 18, 2011, 7:45 PM
Robert Pannell,
Dec 18, 2011, 7:46 PM
Robert Pannell,
Dec 18, 2011, 7:46 PM
Robert Pannell,
Dec 18, 2011, 7:47 PM
Robert Pannell,
Dec 18, 2011, 7:47 PM
Robert Pannell,
Dec 18, 2011, 7:47 PM
Robert Pannell,
Dec 18, 2011, 7:51 PM
Robert Pannell,
Dec 18, 2011, 7:48 PM
Robert Pannell,
Dec 18, 2011, 7:50 PM