Leadership Distinction #35: Manager

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This must be made clear: Managers May Lead, but Leaders Must Manage

Leadership Distinction #35: Manager

The term Manager has rapidly lost its luster, within only a few decades after Peter Drucker celebrated its productive impact on society in his voluminous writings and insightful teaching. ‘Leader’ and ‘Coach’ have displaced it in common parlance — and although I believe that is unfortunate, it reveals certain, new, truths in the world of organized work.

People are assigned the responsibility to generate certain results within an organization. Authority is granted alongside it — explicitly or implicitly. The productive result of coordinated action among a group of people that exceeds the sum of what those individuals would have generated on their own, is what a manager does. 

Now when a manager inspires a direct report to see new possibilities within themselves, or by their example prompts others to emulate her we may say that a manager is in fact leading. And when a manager assists a member of staff in overcoming that which may be gating their personal progress we may say that a manager is coaching. But a manager is paid to manage. Leading and coaching are bonus territory.

The leader of the enterprise – the person who has imagined a better future for the business and who has drawn the free assent of those who choose to follow, must manage the complex array of people and action that are necessary to bring about results. Leaders get paid to generate a new reality. It takes managing to make it happen.

No matter the evolving vocabulary of organizations and the work within them, there’s an abiding truth worth holding onto: a manager may lead; a leader must manage.

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