It is commonly understood that Leaders and Managers are synonymous, yet that’s not true at all. A manager could be a leader, but often they aren’t.

In “Business Essentials” by Ebert and Griffin, leaders are defined as operating with a sense of Power. Power being the ability to get people do things for (or with) you. A manager, on the other hand, often operates with Legitimate Power, which is defined as an authority given the manager through the organization. An organization relays to the workers that they must obey a manager.

Further, a manager has coercive and rewarding powers. These are the powers to reward and discipline subordinates.

Leaders have specific traits. They tend to inspire people, and are often charismatic. They set agendas and monitor their sphere of influence. Communication with leaders is a pivotal trait. Charismatic leaders rely heavily on inspiration. Their magnetic personality can bolster support.

One interesting aspect of charismatic speeches, is that the more charismatic the speech, the less likely people will actually remember it. Listeners get caught up in the emotions of the speaker. The more emotions produced in the audience, the less they retain. Certainly this can lead to manipulation.

A good leader, however, inspires workers to increase productivity. A manager, may or may not have leadership skills.

Real World Examples

Through my life experience, I’ve worked for both Leaders and Managers.

X Theory Managers

One of the classic “Manager” figures I worked with was at Yahoo! This individual was feared by his subordinates. He regularly yelled, screamed and mocked his subordinates. Most of the workers were afraid of him, a few were straight up hostile to him.

We could say that he was a X Theory Manager. The idea behind McGregor’s X Theory of management, is that they see their workers as the enemy. They see workers as needing to be dominated, micromanaged and driven by fear.

As an example of this manager, I recall my first week on the job. I was tasked with shadowing another worker. At the end of the week, the manager took me aside, in a private room. Once I sat down in front of my laptop, he began screaming at me:

“We’re bleeding $2,000 a minute. We have a P0 in production! What are you going to do about it?”

In shock, I found myself answering his question. He screamed at me, “Don’t tell me, DO IT!” I began clicking around the laptop to pull up relevant data points. As I did it, he would scream, “STOP. Now tell me how about…” and away he went. His spit was hitting my arms. That’s how close he was to me. He made me feel weak and foolish. He was so angry at me, I was sure I was going to lose my job. He told me to go back to my desk. As I left the room, he said, “good work.”

That manager wasn’t angry at me, he was breaking me down. He was letting me know that he was the source of my sustenance. That I better work hard, or I’ll be out. He wanted me to feel pressure and stress and he was trying to dominate me psychologically.

We could also label this fellow a task driven manager. They have tasks that need to be completed. They push their employees to get it done.

Y Theory Managers

When I worked at Universal Studios, I had a great manager. She was always looking out for me. She was an employee focused manager. Unlike a task driven manager, she was all about her quality employees.

She worked hard to keep us happy, rewarded and engaged with the job. I have fond memories of that job.

One thing X Managers never realize, is that at some point they’ll become job seekers. No job lasts forever. Once they get out in the job market they will have a name as a tyrant, a tornado… and often they’ll find it very challenging to get work again. In fact, the fellow I just described, he fell into that category. He became stuck in dead end jobs because all the big companies knew him by reputation.

Other Content

Below, is a video (from Nav Words) I found online, talking about the difference between Leaders and Managers:


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