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Leadership VS Management

Ask any person of authority, “Are you a leader or a manager?” You will likely end up with as many different responses as the number of people you’ve asked. That’s because we all look at these roles in different ways.

Generally speaking, a leader is anyone who has the interest of a company in mind. A manager is someone who leads a specific area or department. It even gets more confusing when companies put differently named hierarchies for levels of leadership. Think lead, supervisor, foreman, manager, steward, and so the list goes on!

I remember talking to a colleague who once told me he’d gone from one company as a senior manager to another as a senior supervisor. He thought he was taking a lesser position when he started at his new job. It turns out that they didn’t use the terminology manager at his new company. Supervisor is what his previous company would have called a manager. For some reason, that company felt the term manager was more authoritarian than supervisor. Confusing, right?

But this is a reality when it comes to leadership of any kind. To build support and morale, companies often change title names to create a new – better – environment. It rarely works. I’d go so far as to say it never works. A name change is not the problem with a company with low morale. Management is the problem. And this is where we discuss the real difference between leadership and management.


Regardless of the title that a company places on the hierarchal level of a person, most people understand that a manager manages something. That could be a mailroom, a department, a shift, or the four cubicles in the corner of the office. Whatever it is, a manager tends to manage people and activities in a specific area. That’s fine. However, how we gauge success for a manager is often purely dependent upon how that manager performs over the area and people they manage. The manager could be a lousy people person, but if the metrics are hit in that small area, the manager is considered good-great-successful.

What happens if a 1st and 2nd shift production manager is doing amazingly, but suddenly the third-shift production manager can’t seem to hit their metrics? Does that mean the 3rd shift production manager is just not doing well? If you said yes, then you would be like most companies who would replace that 3rd shift manager. But I would argue that the 2nd shift manager is likely doing a poor job by not setting the 3rd shift manager up for success. And it is the 1st shift manager who benefits from the skills of the 3rd shift manager who sets the 1st shift manager up for success.

How do I know the 3rd shift manager is the leader among these three people? Because it is the 3rd shift manager who is thinking about how the company will succeed as a whole. That is the difference. This 3rd shift manager may be in the same role but sees it more broadly. This person does not see the manager managing a department, shift, or four cubicles. Instead, this person sees the manager as someone who helps others succeed even if they are dealt a difficult hand. Companies worldwide struggle because they perpetuate the ideals of a manager, not a leader.


As I hope I’ve demonstrated, a title does not make a leader. In fact, a label may diminish a leader’s role. For example, how often have you heard the statement, “Management is horrible, but I love my leader?” It’s a famous statement, and people often subconsciously separate their leader from the rest of the company’s management. That is because a good leader shows the characteristics that employees look at as successful.


Good leaders understand that no leader can succeed if their employees don’t succeed. Therefore, employees will feel appreciated by recognizing employees (and colleagues) for their suggestions, actions, and achievements. Imagine if, in the example above, that 1st shift production manager publicly acknowledged that their success came from the 3rd shift team more than their efforts.


Leaders learn to listen and guide others to success rather than ordering people around. Listening to the “boots on the ground” will lead everyone in a positive direction. But a good listener does not just hear from their team. A good listener looks at the whole picture to identify where that leader’s team can improve the company.


Like the earlier example, the 3rd shift production leader showed his team how to set others up for success. Sometimes, that means putting aside your metrics to improve another team’s metrics. This is probably the easiest and most effective way to enhance a company’s whole yet receive the least recognition. On the surface, evaluating a leader from a manager seems obvious. Yet, the implementation is complicated. First, leaders must toss their old friend “Ego” out the door. Then, a leader can put their interests aside while focusing on the interests of the whole. Imagine doing everything to help everyone else and receiving nothing in return. If you can do that, you already know what it is like to be a great leader. Congratulations.


Dr Santarvis Brown is a highly accomplished leader, innovator, and changemaker in the field of education, with over 15 years of experience as an administrator, educator, and program director. His passion for education and his powerful work ethic have made him an effective leader, able to lead faculty and staff while driving innovation and progressive change. Throughout his professional career, Dr Brown has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the intersectionality of faith, service, education, and vision-driven leadership. He is a noted speaker, researcher, and professor who has delivered keynote speeches at various community and educational forums. Dr Brown has also authored several publications addressing civic service, leadership, faith, and education issues.

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