bill berry

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On The Difference Between Managers and Leaders

Tom Peters, one of my favorite business authors, says there’s no difference between leaders and managers. I think he’s wrong and I think he’s right. Wrong because there is a difference as Buckingham and Coffman explain below:

“Great managers are not miniexecutives waiting for leadership to be thrust upon them. Great leaders are not simply managers who have developed sophistication. The core activities of a manager and a leader are simply different. It is entirely possible for a person to be a brilliant manager and a terrible leader. But it is just as possible for a person to excel as a leader and fail as a manager. And, of course, a few exceptionally talented individuals excel at both.

“If companies confuse the two roles by expecting every manager to be a leader, or if they define ‘leader’ as simply a more advanced form of ‘manager,’ then the all-important ‘catalyst’ role will soon be undervalued, poorly understood, and poorly played. Gradually the company will fall apart.”
– Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, “First, Break All the Rules”

Alas, Peters is also right because that ship has sailed. There’s no point to arguing the distinction because too many conflate the two.

Nevertheless, let me add one bit of nuance. Individual contributors can be leaders without managing anyone or anything.

That is all.