Managers vs. Leaders – The Reading List

manager-teamworkWhat do you do if your company’s middle managers and executives suck? In the early 2000s, as I was climbing the ladder, I became cynical and disillusioned. I no longer believed in my superiors’ ability to manage their underlings, or themselves. Company after company, I kept encountering  middle managers and executives that were ineffective.  All I thought was, “Don’t the higher ups understand what managers should be doing?” and “Do they understand that just because they think they’re good leaders, doesn’t mean they’re good managers?”

What Managers Should be Doing

My high standards of management and leadership kept these normal people from meeting my expectations. The net effect: I was hurt, frustrated, and then angry at their incompetence or inability to manage and lead well. I learned that not everyone in management and leadership positions understand Peter Drucker’s five basic tasks of a manager:

  • Sets objectives
  • Organizes
  • Motivates and communicates
  • Measures
  • Develops people

How hard could it be? Apparently, very hard. I learned over time that some middle managers and executives were committed to appearing like effective managers and good leaders, but they had limitations in their ability to be effective ones. The middles managers and executivves I experienced often didn’t understand there was a difference between management and leadership. They thought being a leader was being a manager. I would ask myself, “Could I GET anymore frustrated or angry?”

Managers vs. Leaders

You may or may not know what the difference is between leaders and managers; here’s list from the Warren Bennis book On Becoming Leader that effectively describes the differences:

  1. The manager administers; the leader innovates
  2. The manager is a copy; the leaders is an original
  3. The manager maintains; the leader develops
  4. The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people
  5. The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust
  6. The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range view
  7. The manager asks how and when; the leaders asks what and why
  8. The manager has his eye always on the bottom line; the leader has his eye on the horizon
  9. The manage imitates; the leader originates
  10. The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it
  11. The manager is a classic good soldier; the leader is his own person
  12. The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing

Re-Frame, Re-Frame, Re-Frame

I once had a new boss, who didn’t have the skill set and the core competencies to manage our department, manage our team’s individual performance, protect our department from politics, or represent us accomplishment and performance to our VP.  It was upsetting to have his management blunders negatively affect our department. I became angry, and then I just snapped. Then, the idea came to me. I didn’t enjoy feeling toxic and dysfunctional. I felt as if I had lost all that I had gained, over the past eight years in my career. It was time to re-frame my reason for being there.

If you’re in the same situation, then you understand that priority number is to tolerate the middle managers and executives, since keeping your job in this recession is vital. Priority number two should be to re-frame the problem by focusing on something in your current job that will help you survive the economy and job, like building new skills on the side or taking on extra work that will help you develop your skill set. Priority number three? Cut your middle managers and executives some slack. Unfortunately, they’re only human. Not everyone aspires to be an effective manager.

CB068378Recommended Books on Management

What Management is and Isn’t

Middle Management

Recommended Books on Leadership, Growing Leaders, and Flow


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