What’s the Difference Between a Manager and a Leader? (Part 1)
In 1977 Abraham Zaleznik published what became a landmark article in the world of management literature.
According to Harvard Business Review editors, Zaleznik uncovered a flaw in the structure-and-control-oriented management theory of the time: the failure to lift the human spirit to envision a different future and create a sense of meaning in one’s work. It radically changed the way managers and leaders look at things!
While it would be silly to over-generalize from these distinctions, here’s a summary of what Zaleznik had to say:
- The best word for managers is balance; the best word for leaders is change.
- Managers want to smooth things out; leaders want to shake things up.
- Managers think about how to oversee the existing order of things; leaders think about how to shape the future.
- Managers think about execution; leaders go for ideas.
- Managers seek control; leaders seek out risk.
- Managers seek stability and, therefore, prefer to act quickly to solve problems; leaders handle ambiguity well and can delay closure.
- Managers focus on problem-solving and achieving the results to which the organization is committed; leaders incite people to think about what could be.
- Managers view work as a process of compromises so that everyone can be a winner; leaders look for opportunities for large gains at the risk of failure.
- Managers tend to be social but not as emotionally involved; leaders have high emotional intelligence and empathy.
- Managers send “signals”; leaders send “messages.”
- Managers focus on following the correct procedures to resolve an issue (the process); leaders focus on the substance of an issue.
As you can see, Zaleznik found fundamental differences between leaders and managers. Organizations and ministries need both, of course, and the potential for running off the most competent managers or the most innovative leaders is a legitimate concern. The question is how to make a place for both. How can we help leaders and managers not only co-exist, but appreciate and support each other?
How about you? Are you more manager or more leader? What does your discipleship ministry to men need right now? Are you the one to provide it? If not, who can you recruit to co-labor with you?
Your brother in the battle,
Zaleznik, A. (1977, 2004). Managers and leaders: are they different? Harvard Business Review, (82)1, 74-81.