Leaders vs Managers: Promotion Advice You Can Use When You Know These Two Can Be One And The Same

Leaders vs Managers since the study of management began; has been a great debate about the roles of these two titles.

What are their differences and if they are even mutually exclusive. How does knowing what the differences affect your promotion? Will it affect your promotion?

I am of the opinion that it does. I firmly believe that to be able to do your work well, you need to know your role. Then you can play your part.

If you do not know your role, how do you know what you should be doing? Once you know, you can do. The important thing is also, once you are promoted, you need to lead and manage people. So, which role comes first? A leader or a manager?

Personally, I refuse to be defined by these titles. There are times when being a manager is right and there are times when being a leader is right. These roles are not mutually exclusive. There is an often quoted saying to distinguish the difference between a manager and a leader - “Leaders do the right things and managers do things right.” Really? If that is the case who gets promoted?

So, when you do the right things does it have to be implemented well? Say your company believes in meritocracy. That is a right thing to do and if it is not done right, can it still benefit the employees? Therefore the question of leaders vs managers needs to be viewed from a pragmatic stand point. Which means, as workers in the industry, do you see a difference and can you really pin point when being a leader starts and when being a manager ends?

And the difference between leaders vs managers is not important so long as it achieves the desired result. This is an important promotion advice for you. Once you know there is little difference and the definition is not as important as the utilitarian function, then you can focus on what is crucial. The work itself and the delivery of the result is necessary for your promotion.

Let’s take another example on leaders vs managers – vision. “Oh, leaders have vision and managers do not,” they quip. Let me ask this, how often is a vision used at work? If, as a leader you keep hanging the vision over people’s head, they will hate you and think that you are some dictator who is nuts! Of course, vision is important. It tells us where we want to go. But in your day to day work, implementation is as important, if not more. The part of work often attributed to managers.

In your daily work, if you want a promotion advice, go for consistent small wins. Wins that can be implemented and that can make people feel self worth in the office and increase morale. Then you become promotable.

So, do you ask - why should people be led by me or why should people be managed by me? Can you truly be a manager without leadership skills? Or a leader without managerial skills? It’s not a question of leaders vs managers. It is a question of leaders AND managers. You need a balance of both. Not one or the either.

Small example – let’s take project management. Eventually we all manage some kind of project in the office right? So, if you define yourself as a leader, do you not need to be good at managing? Skills like time management and deadlines? And if you define yourself as a manager, do you not need skills of a leader like empathy and helping people reach their potential? You can’t.

My promotion advice to you? Leaders vs managers, you need to know out here in the working world, it takes both qualities to be promotable.


Here are my recommended books and articles on leadership


Harvard Business Review on Leadership (Harvard Business Review Paperback Series) has a good collection of classic articles on leadership and its challenges. It includes classics like What Leaders Really Do (John P. Kotter), Managers and Leaders: Are They Different? (Abraham Zaleznik) and The Work of Leadership (Ronald A. Heifetz and Donald L. Laurie).

Harvard Business Review on Breakthrough Leadership contains important work on leadership like - Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance from Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee.

Lastly, Harvard Business Review on What Makes a Leader has an excellent collection of articles that includes What Makes a Leader (Daniel Goleman), Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, the Inevitable Cons (Michael Maccoby) and Why Should Anyone Be Led By You (Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones).





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