The Best Leaders Can Manage and the Best Managers Can Lead

Though leadership and management are not interchangeable terms, the terms can be put together productively. Does a great leader equate to a great manager? What actually makes these two terms different? Let's think about the daily lives of leaders and managers and also compare those who are role models with those who are not.

While managers perform concrete daily tasks such as overseeing deadlines, developing structure within a team and monitoring results, leaders develop visions for the future, create team networks and inspire people to rise above challenges. It does not take much effort to see how these roles intertwine. While a leader is more associated with the world of ideas and a manager is associated with everyday reality, any business that wishes to succeed needs to employ people who can dream even as they genuinely meet with the truths of the day.

What makes a good manager?

Ineffective managers tend to take on a blameless attitude in which they ignore their personal shortcomings. They often know what they want to accomplish on any particular day, but this is not necessarily tied to future goals. As a result, their employees will feel blamed for decisions over which they had no control, irritated that the manager is unapproachable, and uncertain as to why they are performing their current tasks. A good manager, on the other hand, is a person who is willing to identify personal shortcomings. This manager has a clear vision of the future and communicates this to the employees. Because the employees perceive the respect that is shown to them, the work environment feels secure and productive.

What makes a strong leader?

Similarly, a strong leader demonstrates positive respect for the employees on the team. Leadership also means setting a standard, preferably a high one. A strong leader demonstrates self control and is always ready to listen to the employees' ideas or complaints. Through this method, people are led with the least amount of actual direction which creates a respectful atmosphere for everyone.

A manager who is humble, yet able to set high standards, exerts self control and communicates a clear vision of the future will be a wonderful asset in any organization.

Fortune's list of most admired companies includes those with productive, long-term vision and clear results. Apple gained fame for new and user-friendly product releases and an overall high standard for all products. Southwest Airlines is known for their combination of low-cost flights with consistent performance. Coca-Cola has continuously met or exceeded their goals in international expansions. They have also preserved their reputation through water conservation efforts.

If proof-positive does not work for you, consider the worst of the worst. Most people who become great leaders and/or managers have a few horror stories about those who inspired them in terms of what not to do. Peruse the movie titles, and you may recall Gordon Gekko, believer in the "greed is good" philosophy. And don't forget Charles Dickens' Scrooge—a man who thought that giving a day off was like having his pocket picked. Surely, both Gekko and Scrooge make a great impression on TV, though a disastrous one in person. We need to learn from their failings and adopt the best strategies of both management and leadership.


This article was submitted by the University of Notre Dame, in partnership with the University Alliance. The University of Notre Dame offers an online certificate in leadership, as well as a number of various business courses. To found out additional information about these higher education opportunities please visit

Twitter feed is not available at the moment.