Volume 12, Issue 9 - November/December 2011

AMD Headlines

Leaders Versus Managers
Discovering the Differences and Utilizing Strengths
by Audrey Dyer

Those who know me are aware of my interest in how people interact in the workplace—how the diversity of generations, personal values and individual capabilities can come together to create effective teams. That interest drove me to study the traits of managers and leaders. We know how important it is to get the right employee in the right job, because personalities are different and strengths and weaknesses vary across individuals. But when we get to the management level of our organizations this is even more critical. A big part of the battle is being able to identify and understand the distinctly different traits of leaders and managers—once that is recognized, we’re more able to utilize their individual strengths.

It is also useful for us to evaluate ourselves in this regard. Are you a manager or a leader? Although you may hear these two terms used interchangeably, they are in fact very different, with each having distinct personality traits. By learning whether we are more of a leader or more of a manager, we can gain self confidence and valuable insight into our own abilities while at the same time gaining the respect of our employees.

Different Approaches to Assessing Risk
Managers and leaders have personality styles that are very distinct. Managers emphasize rationality and control, and are good problem-solvers. They ask questions about the problem to be solved and look for the best ways to achieve the desired results.
They are persistent, tough-minded, hard-working, intelligent, analytical, tolerant and have goodwill toward others. Managers are also risk-averse. Leaders are perceived as brilliant, but sometimes lonely, and usually achieve control of themselves before they try to control others. They are imaginative and can visualize a purpose and value in work, passionate, but non-conforming risk-takers. Effective leaders continually ask questions to all levels of the company, searching for information to test their own perceptions and to recheck the facts. They talk to employees and respect each one for the answers they are given, right or wrong.

"A good manager does things right; a good leader does the right thing."

The attitudes of managers and leaders toward goals are different. Managers are comfortable with an impersonal, almost passive attitude toward goals. They decide upon goals based on necessity instead of desire. They focus on current information, so they tend to be reactive. Leaders tend to be proactive because they base goals on their vision. They evaluate challenges to their goals and may play along with trends and contradictions in order to achieve them while appealing to others based on their integrity. Leaders shape ideas instead of responding to them and provide a vision that alters the way people think about what is desirable, possible and necessary.

Different Problem-Solving and People Approaches
Managers and leaders tend to have a different work focus. Managers’ style is more transactional. They have a position of authority vested in them by the company so their subordinates work for them and most of the time do as they are told. They view work as a process and follow established strategies. They are paid to get things done, so they tend to limit choices. Managers have a strong survival instinct that makes them risk-averse. Leaders develop new approaches to problems and try to open issues to new options. They use their vision to excite people, and develop choices to focus people on shared ideals and raised expectations. Leaders like to work from a high-risk position and dislike mundane work.

Because of their differing views, tendencies and methods, managers and leaders have a different people focus toward their employees. Managers prefer working with others—working alone makes them anxious. They maintain a low level of emotional involvement in their relationships and attempt to reconcile differences by seeking compromises in order to establish a balance of power. They relate to people according to the role they play in events or in a decision-making process, focusing on how things get done while maintaining a controlled and rational structure. They may be viewed by others as detached and manipulative. Leaders have a perceptiveness that they use in their relationships with others, relate to people in various ways focusing on what events and decisions mean to the participants. They have a strong identity that tends to create systems where human relations are turbulent or intense, and at times even disorganized.

"Leaders often have not had an easy time of it, impacting their view of the future and making them more willing to take risks."

Managers and leaders have a different self-identity that can be strongly influenced by their past. Managers’ lives have usually been more or less peaceful since birth, coming from stable home backgrounds and relatively normal and comfortable lives. This is a factor that tends to make them risk-averse and avoid conflict. Leaders often have not had an easy time of it, impacting their view of the future and making them more willing to take risks. It is important to understand that for leaders to lead, they have to give up authoritarian control, because to lead is to have followers, and following is always a voluntary activity.

As you can see, managers and leaders are very different. Both a manager and a leader may know the business well, but the leader must know it better and in a different way. Leaders must grasp the essential facts and the underlying forces that determined the past and present trends in the business so a strategy can be developed for the future. Managers are good at maintaining the status quo and adding stability and order to a business culture, but they may not be as good at instigating change or envisioning the future. A good leader has an honest, open attitude toward facts and objective truth, but a questionable leader obscures facts for self-interest or prejudice—a good manager does things right; a good leader does the right thing.

There is a big difference in the traits of leaders and managers, but it is important to remember the value of the strengths and weaknesses in both types of individuals. A successful company needs a balance of both leaders and managers working together.

Audrey Dyer is AMD’s immediate past president and is president of ECMD Inc.

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