Volume 78, September 2007: Are You a Manager or a Leader?

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2007 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Inventories can be managed, but people must be led.” — H. Ross Perot

“The aim of leadership is not to find and record failures of men, but to remove the causes of failure: to help people do a better job …” — W. Edwards Deming

“The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it.” — Elaine Agather

“There they go. I must run and catch up with them, because I am their leader!” — Mohandas Gandhi


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Control replaced by influencing.
  • Guiding by persuasion, logic and passion.
  • Process and systems knowledge.
  • Acknowledging that everyone has a leadership role. Creating more leaders.
  • Less mechanistic, more humanistic.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Are you a leader, a manager, or a supervisor? Possibly all three.

Management and supervision require leadership. Leadership does not necessarily have to involve supervision. The roles are differentiated by what they focus on. They have nothing to so with style or personality, charisma or character.

All of the literature about the distinctions between managers and leaders, about whether one is better than the other, about whether we need both, and about whether organizations need more or less of one or the other, miss the point.

The challenge is to figure out where the mix of roles is for you and your organization, and then develop the tools, techniques, and focus that you’re going to need to fill those roles effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

“So what is the difference in leaders and managers and supervisors?”
Let’s look at Miriam-Webster:
  • Supervisor – One who is in charge of a particular department or operation or unit.
  • Manager – An executive, administrator, or supervisor who exercises direction.
  • Leader – A guide or conductor. A horse placed in advance of the other horses of a team.

Does this confuse you? (It does me.)

The distinction seems to be a matter of scope and focus. Managing is about operations: maintaining, controlling, and coordinating systems and processes. Leading is about influencing, setting new strategic direction (e.g., vision) and articulating what matters most to an organization (e.g., values and principles) – i.e., orchestrating. Notice a “control vs. influence” distinction.

“Aren’t leaders more important than managers?”
There are sayings like, “Leaders do the right things. Managers do things right.” Another old adage is “Leaders lead people, managers manage things.” And “Leaders direct; managers execute.”
Warren G. Bennis said that “Leaders keep their eyes on the horizon, not just on the bottom line.” He also said, “The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.” Was it Covey who coined “straightening the chairs on the deck of the Titanic?”
This website depicts some of the dichotomous thinking: Charting New Waters.
There is an insulting tone that managers are somehow less important than leaders. Both are essential to balance the business of an organization. And each role needs some of the others’ skills.
“What are some of those skills needed by managers?”
The main focus of the management role is to maximize the output of the organization through administrative implementation, including functions like:
  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Staffing/Hiring
  • Directing/Training
  • Coordinating
  • Reporting
  • Budgeting
  • Performance management
  • Resourcing: procuring tools and technology
  • Communication, and
  • Leading – setting direction.
“And the skills needed for leaders?”
In our Leadership course, we teach what we consider to be the New Skills of Leadership:
  • Coaching and Mentoring
  • Motivation and the Human Spirit
  • Engendering Trust and Integrity
  • Systems Thinking
  • Visionary Planning
  • Working in Your Culture
  • Teaching and Learning
  • New Ways of Communicating
  • Developing Teams
  • Managing Conflict
  • Leading Change
  • Renewing Your Own Spirit, and
  • The Power of Celebration.

The course content is appropriate for all leaders, and this includes everyone.

“Did Deming separate the roles?”
W. Edwards Deming used the terms leader and manager interchangeably. In his “Attributes of a Leader,” he added two ideas I like: “Focuses on the customer, internal and external” and “Removes obstacles to joy in work.” He also believed that you could not manage (lead) processes that you did not understand – doing so would result in managing only “by the numbers.”


Basic guide to leadership and supervision: Free Basic Guide to Leadership and Supervision.

Free management training programs and lesson plans: Free Training Programs.

Key Associates offers a course on the new skills required of leaders: The New Leadership.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Development of management thought: What is Management?.

Managing vs. Leading – opinions: Are You a Manager, a Leader, or Both?. Building Brands. From Manager to Leader, Coaching – Management Made Easy, and The Changing Meaning of Leadership.

Keyzines on related topics: Leadership, Facilitative Leadership, Employees as Customers, and Principled Leadership.



Buy MK’s latest book!