Nine Things That Separate The Leaders From The Managers

Nine Things That Separate The Leaders From The Managers

 Warren Bennis, one of the pioneers of contemporary leadership studies, was fond of saying, “The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.” It’s a distinction that should speak volumes to anyone who seeks to both manage and lead in an organization.

Bennis, who died in 2014, once wrote out a list of 12 differences between managers and leaders. For the most part, the items in that collection (which include the above quote) do not flatter managers. Among those points:

• “The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.”

• “The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.”

• “The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.”

Reebok Pump and Swiffer mop

Leaders experiment—in ways that have produced game-changing products like the Reebok Pump and Swiffer mop. (Photos by Continuum)

I would put a finer point on the matter. Managing and administering are critical tasks: Without them, we wouldn’t execute our best ideas and carry out essential functions. Still, Bennis is right. Each of us needs to be a leader, not simply a manager or administrator. We need to not just do things right—which is about execution. We have to also do the right things, which means finding better ways to carry out the missions of our organizations.

As Bennis also said, “The manager administers; the leader innovates.” How true. Without leadership, there’s no agenda for change and improvement. There’s no vision.

Simply put: What does a great leader do? I’ve cobbled together my own list of nine things any leader must do to be more than a manager. These reflect my three decades of working with leaders worldwide as a speaker, author, strategy professor, executive trainer, and dean of a management school