Healthy Leaders


Managers and Leaders: Your Differences Are Your Strengths!

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

This is Part 1 in a series on Spiritual Management
Part 2 – What Do Managers Actually Do?
Part 3 – The Skills of the Spiritual Manager
Part 4 – Leaders and Managers in the Bible
Part 5 – A Healthy Organization Needs Both Leaders and Managers!

Leaders manage and managers lead, but the two activities are not synonymous.  Leadership and management are different.  They are distinctive and complementary. Each has its own functions and characteristics. Both are necessary for the organization to fulfill its divine purpose.

Leaders are visionaries. They think about the “big picture” issues of the long-term future. Managers are more concerned with making things work now.

The following diagram compares leadership with management, showing time against detail of activity:

Let’s take a look at how leaders and managers differ on basic issues of direction, alignment, achievement, and personal qualities.


Management gives direction in the short term regarding the details. Leadership gives direction in the long term regarding the big picture.

Management focuses on implementation: establishing detailed plans and schedules for achieving specific results, then allocating resources to accomplish the plan. Leadership calls for creativity: developing a compelling vision of the future and far-sighted strategies for producing the changes needed to achieve that vision.

Good management keeps an eye on the bottom line and short-term results, whereas leadership means keeping an eye on the horizon and the long-term future.

Management produces a degree of stability, predictability, order and efficiency. Thus, good management helps the organization achieve short-term results and meet the expectations of various people both inside and outside the organization. Leadership means questioning and challenging the status quo so that flawed, outmoded or irrelevant norms can be replaced to meet new challenges. Thus, good leadership can lead to extremely valuable changes that help the organization fulfill its divine purpose.

Management is needed to help the organization meet its current commitments, whereas leadership is needed to move the organization into the future.

Leaders build bridges to the future. Managers help us to actually get there.

Leaders Managers
Focus on the long-term; watch the horizon Focus on the short-term; watch the bottom line
Create vision and strategy Plan and budget
Provide vision by working from the future back to the present Provide plans and goals by working from the present forward to the future
Ask “What?” and “Why?” Ask “How?” and “When?”
Identify opportunities Identify obstacles
Seek opportunity and improvement Seek predictability and continuity
Help people move from where they are now to somewhere else Help people succeed where they are
Define the path Clear the path
Ignite fires Initiate programs
Take risks Avoid risks
Start revolutions Protect the status quo
Create (often radical) change Maintain stability
Excited by change Threatened by change
Seek revolutionary change tied to future opportunity Seek incremental change tied to present demands
Should qualify idealism with realism Should qualify pragmatism with idealism
Information base of feelings, emotions and ideas Information base of data and facts
“If it’s possible, let’s do it!” “If it’s necessary, let’s do it.”
Start new things Finish what the organization is already doing
Prioritize future challenges and opportunities Prioritize current commitments


The issue of alignment involves helping the people to understand and embrace the direction.

Management is concerned with organizing a structure to accomplish the plan; helping the right people to find their right places within that plan; and developing policies, procedures and systems to direct the people to fulfill the plan. Managers are the thinkers who help others to do.

Leadership is concerned instead with communicating the vision and developing a shared culture and core set of genuinely-shared values that can lead the organization to the desired future. This involves others as thinkers and doers, with the leaders themselves fostering a sense of ownership among everyone. The vision describes the future, while the culture and values help define the journey toward it. Leadership focuses on getting everyone lined up in the same direction.

Managers organize by separating people into specialties and functions, with clear boundaries separating them by department and hierarchical level. Leaders break down boundaries so people know what others are doing, can coordinate easily, and feel a sense of teamwork, equality and overall purpose in fulfilling God’s will.

A good clue in looking for leadership potential is to look for the ability to think across departmental issues, not just the ability to make out a strong case for one department. When it comes to the allocation of resources, leaders have to prioritize between multiple, well-presented, legitimate causes. One can only do this against a “big-picture” vision that covers the entire scope of the organization. Good managers make good cases for their own departments, but often cannot see, or hear, the validity of parallel claims on resources.

Leaders Managers
Start with the person and then determine the broad role he should play Start with the specific task and try to find the right person who will make a good “fit”
Think about people in terms of their growth and potential Think about people in terms of their fit with structures and procedures
Promote opportunities for growth Set and communicate the standards of successful performance
Create vision and meaning for the organization and strive to transform culture Act within established culture of the organization
Embrace the big picture Focus on the details
Build broad ownership of the vision Get the right people in the right places
Pursue follower commitment Seek follower compliance
Idea-centered Plan-centered
Innovate for the entire organization Administer subsystems within the organization
Create shared values and culture Organize and delegate
Pursue creative acquisition of resources Action limited by available resources
Eliminate boundaries Create boundaries
Think across departments Strengthen within departments


The issue of achievement of the vision involves helping the people to start moving to fulfill the vision and then to continue moving in the right direction, so that God’s purposes are fulfilled.

Management focuses on things like procedures and reports, and on taking the daily steps necessary to achieve the organization’s goals. Leadership, on the other hand, focuses on encouraging and inspiring people to continue moving toward the vision.

Management is involved in directing and overseeing the people so that they do the right things the right way, whereas leadership is concerned with helping others grow so that they can fully contribute to achieving the vision.

The management communication process usually involves providing answers, solving problems and directing others, whereas leadership entails asking questions, listening and involving others. Communicating direction and cultural values in actions as well as words is necessary for leadership to influence the people toward understanding the vision and supporting it.

A manager’s relationship with others is likely to be more formal, relying more on positional authority, than that of a leader. A manager will often see himself as an overseer or supervisor, whereas the leader sees himself as a mentor, coach or facilitator.

Leaders Managers
Concerned with maintaining alignment with the big picture Concerned with the details of the daily agenda
Inspire and encourage Direct and problem-solve
Seek ownership of the vision Seek performance
Release potential Coordinate people and resources
Encourage innovative thinking Encourage routine thinking
Find problems Solve problems
Question Tell
Focus on doing the right things Focus on doing things right
Seek effectiveness Seek efficiency
Model the way Explain the way
Coach Coordinate
Inspire Reward
Persuade Exchange
Use servanthood power Inclined to use reward, coercive and positional power
Transformational influence Transactional influence

Personal Qualities

Leadership is more than a set of skills; it relies on a number of subtle personal qualities that may be hard to see, but are very powerful.

Typically, managers have a low tolerance for ambiguity and are most comfortable in more stable, well-defined situations. Leaders, however, will be comfortable in the midst of rapid change, innovation, unclear authority, and broad-reaching empowerment. This is a crucial distinction. Since a leader is so involved in the future, he must function effectively in an environment of some uncertainty – personal as well as organizational. The manager’s focus, however, is primarily on the present so he functions well in a more certain environment.

Effective managers will be good at dealing with well-defined problems; for example, how to increase efficiency in a certain department. But leaders must be adept at handling problems that are nebulous or ambiguous, such as what is the future direction of that department in the midst of a changing external environment. The higher people rise in an organization, the fewer facts they typically have to inform their decisions.

Consequently, an ability to handle – and even thrive in – ill-defined and complicated situations is a critical leadership capacity. Many good managers become confused and hesitant in ambiguous circumstances, and try to delay their decisions until they have all of the available facts. Others are prematurely decisive when they ought to be more reflective. Effective leaders do neither. They are comfortable acting in gray areas and are often able to move forward in ill-defined and complex situations to the organization’s advantage, seeing opportunity where others are only seeing confusion. This is a crucial distinction between leaders and managers.

Management can be more formal and distant in its relationships with others, while leadership means being emotionally connected to others. Where there is leadership, people are not merely performing tasks or activities; they become part of the community and feel that they are significant. Leaders deny their own desires for recognition, recognize the contributions of others, and let others know they are valued.

Sometimes, effective managers rely too heavily on systems, policies and procedures, rigidly expecting others to operate in the same manner. Such people can succeed in an organization until they rise to very senior positions, where their need for regimentation tends to alienate others and stifle creativity.

Management means providing answers and solving problems, whereas leadership requires the courage to admit mistakes and doubts, to take risks, to listen, to trust, to be vulnerable, and to learn from others. Emotional connections are risky but necessary for true leadership to happen.

Good leaders will have an open mind that welcomes new ideas. Moreover, they are willing to be nonconformists, to disagree and say no when it serves the larger good, and to accept nonconformity from others rather than try to squeeze everyone into the same mind-set. They will step outside the traditional boundaries and comfort zones, take risks, and make mistakes in order to learn and grow.

Good leaders will be honest with themselves and others to the point of inspiring trust. They will set high standards by doing the right things, rather than just going along with standards set by others.

Because leaders are so vulnerable, take risks, and initiate change (which typically encounters resistance), leadership causes wear and tear on the person. Therefore, leaders must be tough.

Leaders Managers
Comfortable with ambiguity Like certainty
Listen Talk
Open mind Expert mind
Emotional connectedness More formal relationships
Oriented toward people and concepts Oriented toward programs and procedures
Nonconformity Conformity
Seek flexibility Seek clarity of structure and procedures
Skilled in diagnosis, conceptualization and persuasion Skilled in technical competence, supervision, administration
Abstract and conceptual Concrete and well-defined
Decision making is intuitive and ambiguous Decision making is analytical and rational
Dislike inertia and boredom Dislike anarchy and surprise
Leadership is an art Management is a science

Ultimately, we need both leaders and managers. If everyone spends all his time on visionary thinking, there will be plenty of dreaming but no action. However, if the sole area of concern is short-term detail, there will be much activity without integration, cohesion, direction or long-term purpose.

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