What You Should Know About Leadership and Management Roles


In my career, I have held management positions where I was actually a leader, and in leadership roles where I was in a management position. As I reflected this week, I wondered, what is the difference?  Can someone be a Manager and a Leader?  Or does it have to be mutually exclusive?

Carl Binder, in his article "Integrating Organizational-Cultural Values with Performance Management," (Binder, 2016) writes that it is actually "work output" that defines the role (he takes it a step farther to define work output as the metric for defining company culture, but that will be an article for another day, so stay tuned...)

"Work output"  (Binder, 2016; www.sixboxes.com) can be seen as analogous to Thomas Gilbert's* concept of "accomplishments (Gilbert, 1978)."  It is the product of the behavior, or the goal of what the person needs to accomplish.  The following outlines the differences in work output between a manager and a leader.

1) Leadership

For a leader, work output must be defined from a telescopic viewpoint.  In this job description, we are focused on the "big picture"--the vision of the company and how to incorporate that vision within the metrics of the business as a whole.  The leader focuses on the purpose of the business, and work output is focused on incorporating that purpose within everything that management and employees do in the day to day.

2) Management

The manager's work output can be defined from a microscopic viewpoint.  The manager is focused on the day to day operations, and making sure that everything from an operational standpoint is running smoothly.  In other words, widgets are made, staff are performing, and deliverables are shipped.

Can a leader be a manager and a leader at the same time?  From experience, I say yes, depending on the resources the leader has at their disposal.  If a leader is able to delegate, the microscopic work outputs can be moved to managers, leaving the leader time to think about the big picture and ways to constantly evolve the business; however, if the resources are not there, the leader must take on multiple hats.  This is possible as long as the leader can make time to take off the management hat, and put on the leadership hat, so that they can continue to focus on "big picture" projects.  A business will not be able to grow and scale unless it has managers and leaders...even if they are the same person.


Binder, C (2016). Integrating Organizational-Cultural Values with Performance Management. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 36(2-3), 185-201

Gilbert, T.F. (1978). Human competence: engineering worthy performance.  New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company

*Please Note: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 


Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter, and get our FREE e-Workbook: How to Create An Environment That Maximizes Learning Potential!

Name *