What is the Difference Between Managers and Leaders?
What is the difference between managers and leaders? The Wall Street Journal suggests that the two roles used to be separate; however, in the modern age, they are indelibly linked. Indeed, one may require the skills of both a manager and a leader in order to function effectively in today’s business environment.
Traditionally, a leader sets the direction that an organization is headed for. The late Steve Jobs was certainly a leader at Apple when he decided that the company’s future lay in hand- held devices such as the iPhone and the iPad. He had the vision and set the direction for his company.
The manager’s job is to implement the plan that the leader sets forth. Jobs was also a manager in that he was able to develop these new devices and bring them to market, thereby changing the way we communicate via the Internet and with one another. He took the vision, and helped the people working for him make it a reality.
While the two roles used to be bifurcated in the industrial age, they were always complimentary. It was useless for a leader to set a direction if there was no manager to implement it. If there was no vision as to where an organization is headed, then the manager was pretty much useless, at best- a maintainer of the status quo.
However, in the information age, the roles of leader and manager have started to merge. Employees are no longer interchangeable cogs in a well-oiled machine that can be told what to do by a manager. “Knowledge workers,” a term first coined by management guru Peter Drucker, have skills that need nurturing, and a purpose that needs defining.
It is no longer sufficient to “manage” workers by giving orders and assigning roles. They must be inspired to be part of the vision that is being actualized. This is the role of a leader, who sees beyond the status quo, and envisions what is possible. Like Jobs, a modern businessman must not only have the vision, but must be able to motivate those under his guidance to share that vision, and thus be better able to implement it. The manager of today needs the skills of both leading and managing.