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Why Organizations Need Both Leaders and Managers

Why Organizations Need Both Leaders and Managers

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Quick: What’s the difference between a leader and a manager?

If you’re struggling for a response, you’re not alone. The lines between the roles of leader and manager have blurred, and in many cases, the terms are now used interchangeably. This lack of clarity in job function and expectations has led to some unfocused and inefficient workplaces, as well as some unhappy and unfulfilled employees.

That said, my intent is not to place blame! I also don’t mean to imply that managers can’t lead, and leaders can’t manage. I only mention the trouble with improperly defining these roles as reason to explain how and why it’s important to keep these functions separate and distinct.

Defining Terms

So, let’s first lay out some of the distinctions between leaders and managers. I’ve interpreted and adapted some great information from an article on



Set high-level direction and inspire change

Oversee the work necessary to follow direction and implement change

Are visionary and have an eye toward the future

Are doers and make sure daily tasks are accomplished

Think abstractly about the organization as a whole

Think concretely and analytically about specific, existing data

Articulate ideas in great detail

Interpret ideas into plans of action

Sell people on their ideas

Teach employees how to be their best selves

Understand how the company exists within the market as a whole

Understand the company’s internal environment

Take educated risks

Safely stick to well-thought-out plans

Remain accountable to the entire company

Are responsible for only their team

All of these distinctions are important, but I like to boil it all down to this simple statement: Leaders lead people, and managers manage process.

Work in Action

You’re probably still wondering, “So what?” How do these statements translate into an actual office environment? Generally speaking, you can think of “a day in the life” like this:

Leaders walk into the office every morning and seek to answer the question, “What if?” They get out of the weeds and keep a strategic, 50,000-foot view of the organization. Their day might consist of a meeting with the head of a division to chat about how the organization is positioned against its competitors, or researching new trends to make sure the company is staying relevant and heading in the right direction.

Managers, on the other hand, go into work and focus on “what is.” They might pull their team together for a meeting to research new tools that could help with daily efficiencies.

Both functions are essential, and according to John Gosling, professor of leadership studies at the University of Exeter Business School:

“If an organization is run effectively, leadership and management will exist in tandem.”

Finding the Right Fit

Just as differentiating leaders and managers is important to an organization’s success, so is putting the right people in each role. The common mistake made in most every organization is putting people in leadership roles because they’re knowledgeable and excellent at what they do. These skills may certainly make someone an SME (Subject Matter Expert), but it does not necessarily mean he or she has the competencies needed to be a good leader. When we get it wrong, it's like trying to shove a square peg in a round hole.

Some people are inherently doers, making them superb managers, while others are inherently thinkers, priming them for success as leaders. Because not everyone’s abilities are quite as obvious, one of the most efficient ways to determine the right fit for an individual is simply to ask! At Country Club Bank, we uncover a lot of great information from our people in something we call “stay interviews.” In them, our current associates are able to tell us what’s working, what’s not, and how they’d like to grow.

We continuously strive to help associates identify good roles for them and support that career path. Both leaders and managers have a hand in this process. Leaders think more conceptually, so we rely on them to identify top-performing employees and their relevant KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities) that can be leveraged to maximize organizational value. We then lean on our managers, asking them to help the employees grow in those areas.

Growing for the Future

The success of individual employees is often determined by the effectiveness of their leaders and managers. However, it’s not enough to ensure employees are successful in their current roles. It’s vital to cultivate success beyond your own and groom others for leadership and management to secure lasting success.

A big part of this is having a willingness to surround yourself with A-level players, including people “better” than you. When I was new here, I once told my team if their plan was that they thought I had every answer and all of the best ideas, that was a poor strategy. Instead, I think I’m simply good at putting the right people around me. Knowing who those right people are means I must know myself—my strengths and weaknesses. I then surround myself with people who have a talent for things I don’t. Diversity in all things, especially thought process, is a beautiful thing in a successful team.

What I hope you take away from all of this is that managers and leaders are both of great value, and when we use them correctly, our business successes will soar.

How does your workplace differentiate leadership and management? Let us know by tweeting @CountryClubBank or posting on our Facebook page!


Toni Walsh

Toni Walsh

Executive Vice President - Human Resources

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