As a school administrator, we must take on many roles, but at the end of the day how would you classify yourself? Would you say that you are a leader or a manager? Let’s take a look at the definition of these words. A leader can be defined as: A person or thing that holds a dominant or superior position within its field, and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others. While a manager can be defined as: An individual who is in charge of a certain group of tasks, or a certain subset of a company. A manager often has a staff of people who report to him or her.
Forbes magazine published a great article discussing the 9 most important differences between a leader and a manager.
1. Leaders create a vision, managers create goals.
Leaders paint a picture of what they see as possible and inspire and engage their people in turning that vision into reality. They think beyond what individuals do. They activate people to be part of something bigger. They know that high-functioning teams can accomplish a lot more working together than individuals working autonomously. Managers focus on setting, measuring and achieving goals. They control situations to reach or exceed their objectives.
2. Leaders are change agents, managers maintain the status quo.
Leaders are proud disrupters. Innovation is their mantra. They embrace change and know that even if things are working, there could be a better way forward. And they understand and accept the fact that changes to the system often create waves. Managers stick with what works, refining systems, structures and processes to make them better.
3. Leaders are unique, managers copy.
Leaders are willing to be themselves. They are self-aware and work actively to build their unique and differentiated personal brand. They are comfortable in their own shoes and willing to stand out. They’re authentic and transparent. Managers mimic the competencies and behaviors they learn from others and adopt their leadership style rather than defining it.
4. Leaders take risks, managers control risk.
Leaders are willing to try new things even if they may fail miserably. They know that failure is often a step on the path to success. Managers work to minimize risk. They seek to avoid or control problems rather than embracing them.
5. Leaders are in it for the long haul, managers think short-term.
Leaders have intentionality. They do what they say they are going to do and stay motivated toward a big, often very distant goal. They remain motivated without receiving regular rewards. Managers work on shorter-term goals, seeking more regular acknowledgment or accolades.
6. Leaders grow personally, managers rely on existing, proven skills.
Leaders know if they aren’t learning something new every day, they aren’t standing still, they’re falling behind. They remain curious and seek to remain relevant in an ever-changing world of work. They seek out people and information that will expand their thinking. Managers often double down on what made them successful, perfecting existing skills and adopting proven behaviors.
7. Leaders build relationships, managers build systems and processes.
Leaders focus on people – all the stakeholders they need to influence in order to realize their vision. They know who their stakeholders are and spend most of their time with them. They build loyalty and trust by consistently delivering on their promise. Managers focus on the structures necessary to set and achieve goals. They focus on the analytical and ensure systems are in place to attain desired outcomes. They work with individuals and their goals and objectives.
8. Leaders coach, managers direct.
Leaders know that people who work for them have the answers or are able to find them. They see their people as competent and are optimistic about their potential. They resist the temptation to tell their people what to do and how to do it. Managers assign tasks and provide guidance on how to accomplish them.
9. Leaders create fans, managers have employees.
Leaders have people who go beyond following them; their followers become their raving fans and fervent promoters – helping them build their brand and achieve their goals. Their fans help them increase their visibility and credibility. Managers have staff who follow directions and seek to please the boss.
After reading these points, I feel that managers are painted in a little more negative light than leaders, but I have ultimately concluded that to be an effective administrator you must have a combination of both. It is great when school leaders come up with original ideas, but it is also productive and smart to use ideas from other schools when they are proven and effective — which is what a manager would do.
You may have a great vision for your school, but management of your staff is what will make the vision come to fruition. Getting everyone on board is important, but without a floating ship and a crew to sail it, you will never reach your destination. A good blend of both leadership and management are needed to run successful schools. I think this quote from Bruce Beairsto sums it up nicely: “Management builds the house, leadership makes it a home.”
Shelly Watson is a consultant and curriculum coach at Leaders Building Leaders (LBL). LBL is a leadership consulting, coaching and training organization focused on being the difference maker for public charter school leaders. If you would like Leaders Building Leaders to help you navigate your organization from success to significance, email her at Shelly@Leaders-Building-Leaders.com.