Are you a Leader, or a Manager? It's a trick question.

Are you a manager or a leader? It's a question that social media seems to be obsessed with. The images and quotes below are a small selection of those that come up with a quick Google search. We see clearly that Managers are old-school and an overhead, whereas Leaders are the best thing since sliced bread. 

With this internet wisdom in mind, it seems almost incomprehensible that organizations would continue to hire Managers, rather than Leaders. Yet a cursory bit of research shows that this is exactly what they are doing:

# Advertised Roles in the US

In case you are wondering, the picture is similar on queries in the UK and Canada too - there are between two and three times as many manager roles advertised as there are leadership roles. 

So what's going on? Why are so many business getting it wrong?

The reality is that both roles are important. The Leadership role sets the vision for the organisation and assign resource to make that vision a reality. They provide the What and the Why. The Manager role figures out How the vision is delivered, track progress and measure productivity.  Whilst there are a lot of articles that evangelize leadership, most fail to acknowledge the inherent weakness of the leader role - Leaders are great at vision and generating ideas, but tend to be weak when it comes to providing direction - lots of inspiration, but not much implementation. Suddenly the job-stats make sense! Organisations need managers to deliver the vision created by the leaders. For proof of this, we can look at visionary organisations such as Google. Google started off with a very flat hierarchy. In fact, in 2002, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin set out to have a completely flat structure without any managers at all. The idea was compelling - by removing managers, barriers could be broken down and employees could focus on innovation and development. The experiment did not last long. The founders found themselves bogged down in practical operational issues and interpersonal conflicts. Through this experiment company realized managers had an important role to play (you can read more about Google's experiment in this HBR article).

Managers, Leaders and ...?

With all this focus on Management and Leadership roles, it is worth noting that there are some other essential roles that are also required. Kris Plachy, leadership coach asserts there are actually five roles that the modern manager should have: Leader, Manager, Mentor, Trainer and Coach. 

  • Leader - Set Vision and allocate resource
  • Manager - Define processes, track progress, measure productivity
  • Mentor - Share how the goal (or similar goals) have been delivered in the past
  • Trainer - Teach new skills to increase chances of achieving the vision
  • Coach - Work with the team to maximize attitude and output.

Earlier in this article, we saw some of the weaknesses of the leadership role. It is worth noting that all of the roles, when taken in isolation, have weaknesses. Coaches are prone to overanalysing perfomance gaps and can overcomplicate even the simplest tasks. Mentors and Managers both have a tendency to micromanage, leading to frustrated employees. Trainers need to be careful not to assume everyone learns the same way and understand that training cannot fix every problem. Modern business require modern managers who are able to adopt all five roles and know when to use them to maximum effect.

Are there any other roles that you think modern managers should possess? Let us know in the comments box below!