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Although we expect them to do the same job and play the same role, managers and leaders have entirely different job responsibilities to shoulder
Leading an organisation (and its people) is very different from managing it. Despite the stark difference between these two processes, we quite often mix up the role of a manager with that of a leader. Knowing the difference, however, is essential when trying to understand why their distinct contribution is indispensable to an organisation's success. They are the two most essential ingredients stringing together the fabric of any organisation. Expectations from both being quite distinct, one needs to understand what traits make up a good leader and good manager.
Sunder Madakshira, VP marketing and communications, SAP Labs India, explains this with the help of a simple analogy, "The leader is the locomotive engine while the manager is like the guard's compartment in a train. While one drives the train forward, the other ensures that it is safe." While managers shoulder the responsibility of making sure the organisation functions like a well-oiled machine, leaders pave a path for the organisation. In other words, "The leader has to look ahead of the current times and steer the company through all phases. The manager works on a predictable plan and ensures that productivity is maintained. Leaders ensure effectiveness, while managers ensure efficiencies," explains Madakshira. Since their roles are very distinct, the traits and attributes either of them need to display are quite different from each other as well. While the leader is expected to be entrepreneurial and risk-taking, the manager maintains and delivers a set of expected and predictable outcomes. Hence, "An organisation expects its leaders to be knowledgeable. It looks at leaders to provide vision, direction and a way forward. A leader looks at the organisation as a whole and works for the benefit of the cohesive group, whereas a manager is expected to execute tasks assigned to him/her and manage the team effectively," says Prashant Bhatnagar, director - hiring, SapientNitro.
It is quite clear that leadership and 'managership' are not entirely synonymous and it is extremely important that every organisation harbours a good number of both, leaders and managers. Organisations depend on leaders for strategy, business results and guidance in times of uncertainty. They are expected to read the macro environment well and sense changes and trends. These observations form company policies and strategies, and it is the manager's job to break down these strategies and implement them while ensuring all the guidelines are being followed. Thus, it is important that, "leaders and managers work in tandem with each other. Hence, neither can be exclusive of the other. Also, there needs to be some leader in the manager and some manager in the leader and it is important to recognise when to lead and when to manage, depending on what's good for the organisation," believes Isaac George, vice president, human resources, Wipro Infotech.
However, growth and development for both takes place at a different pace and organisations' expectations from both are different as well. "There will be different mandates and rewards for them. Increasing revenues and profits will be the mandate of the leader, while the onus of ensuring that market guidelines are being met will be with the manager. Difficult assignments that are filled with uncertainties are often entrusted to a leader while the manager typically gets to work on business-as-usual assignments. Leaders are put on a fast path career graph, while managers have a more linear one. Leaders are measured for performance and potential while managers are gauged for performance," says Madakshira. Hence, to be truly valued in an organisation and broaden one's horizon, it becomes important to be both (a leader and manager) and recognise when to play which role. However, it is often observed that every leader needs to be a good manager, while every manager need not necessarily be a leader.
- Tanya Thomas