Are you a Manager or a Leader?

Article Date | 4 October, 2022
                                      Photo: Unsplash


By Dr George Panagiotou, Principal of LSST

'I had rather excel others in the knowledge of what is excellent than the extent of my own powers and dominion'. Alexander the Great, 356BC-323BC


The importance of Management

The essence of strategy, in a commercial context, is to outperform  the competition to increase the company’s wealth and shareholder value.  This notion occurs in every strategic discussion.

However, central to the discussion is also the notion that contemporary organisations, given how much people’s perceptions and beliefs about business practices have changed over time, can only be truly successful if they can satisfy the wider spectrum of their stakeholders rather than just indulge in their self-enrichment aims.  

Good managers know that the two notions go together.  Satisfied stakeholders support the organisation and satisfied customers return for more products and services, which, in turn, generate greater profits for the company. 

Potentially, an organisation can well outlive its founders and remain strong over the centuries if it can remain strategically fit with its environment.  Handy (1996) humorously states that businesses and other organisations have a privilege denied to ordinary mortals – they don’t have to die – and he points out that the Matsui corporation and the Bologna University are both over 600 years old and are still going strong.  Companies such as Reuters (1851), Standard Life (1825), Cadbury Schweppes (1783), Tate and Lyles’s Golden Syrup brand (1885), and Lindt (1845) are some other examples that have defied time and are still leading competitors in their markets.

However, organisations are what their people make them be.  Therefore, the raw material is people - people with diverse talents.  Hence the life span and indeed the overall success of an organisation are dependent upon the commitment, creativity, skills, and enthusiasm of its most important asset – its people.

This is where the management of an organisation becomes critical for its survival, or demise.  Organisations can only achieve their aims and objectives through the effective cooperation and coordination of their members.  And this is the task of management because management is the platform that fuses all organisational aspects.  

Therefore, good managers must not be remote and detached and must not solely concentrate their efforts on the financial performance of the firm.  After all financial, or otherwise, organisational success is the aftermath of a collective human effort.  Managers should be the definers of corporate purpose.  And in the process, they should create such an inspirational corporate climate that its members can share a sense of purpose and pride.  

Thus, a key ingredient in a successful organisation is the emotional commitment of its people and the management’s ability to look deep inside the organisation to identify and promote talent to enable better capabilities.

Managers or Leaders?

Leadership and management are different notions, and sometimes the view that managers are also leaders is not true, since the two are not necessarily interconnected.  A manager can be said, that discharges their administrative powers based on their prescribed role in the organisation to meet the brief and complete the task.  A leader, on the other hand, is mostly concerned with people and involves interpersonal skills.  A manager operates in the framework of the organisation’s hierarchical chain of command whereas a leader may, or may not, be part of that structure.  Individuals with leadership abilities can be found anywhere in the organisation and may not hold a position of authority.  A manager can demand subordinates’ obedience but not necessarily enjoy their respect.  A leader, however, wins people’s respect and has willing followers.

Managers administer and get things done.  Leaders are corporate definers and create an inspirational context in which things can be done.  Thus, the two need to possess different sets of skills.  A manager needs to have good organisational and co-ordinational skills whereas a leader is required to be visionary and dynamic. 

However, given the intricacies of modern-day management and the fact that an organisation’s most important asset is its people, it is expected for managers to be charismatic with interpersonal skills and the ability to guide their subordinates rather than dictate them.  From a strategic perspective this is even more important given the multidimensional nature of strategy development.

Therefore, it is imperative for all individuals in a professional context to equip themselves with leadership skills to improve individual and organisational performance.  Anybody can become a leader if they are willing to develop themselves through training, personal thought and reflection and continuous cultivation of talents and sharpening of relevant qualities.  

Some of such qualities are charisma, dynamism, determination, and consideration.  Others are dedication, vision, ability to inspire others, good communication and negotiation skills, objectivity and fair judgement, consistency, integrity, and decisiveness.  

A leader should also be described by foresight and initiative, drive and perseverance, enthusiasm, reliability, be committed to excellence, have refined interpersonal skills, be emotionally stable and be cooperative and synergetic.  An important attribute is also the capacity to admit own weaknesses and mistakes and have the willingness to empower and support others.

However, there is a fine line between the qualities of a manager or a leader because an individual possesses both sets of skills to one extent or another and are thus difficult to be separated.  In addition, given that managers manage activities through, and/or with others, there should be no need to separate the two roles because good managers should also strive to be good leaders.

The Functions of Management and the Role and the Qualities of the Manager

A manager, in any organisational context, has some responsibilities to observe and specific functions to carry out.  Fayol (1916) stated that these functions are forecasting, planning, organising, communicating, coordinating, and controlling.  Later, Brech (1975) argued the importance of motivation in the process of managing and its effect on the achievement of organisational goals.  In similar lines, Drucker (1977) articulated that a manager’s job is to set objectives, organise activities, motivate and communicate, measure performance, and develop people.  

Even though the original theory of management was developed a century ago these ideas are still intact today, and over the years, only minor improvements have been suggested in the area.  However, by consolidating on the many strengths of the wider literature, a fuller framework of managerial functions can be provided to convey a more contemporary set of guidelines to the modern-day manager and highlight best practices. 

These are illustrated in Table 1, here below.

The Functions of Management
Conceptualising To be insightful, progressive, and able to generate new ideas.
Forecasting To have the ability to put new ideas and visions in a context to make it easy for others to make sense of vague and abstract information.
Planning To decide the activities of the organisation, develop key operationalguidelines and set performance criteria.
Organising To allocate funds and human and non-human resources to the various activity areas.
Communicating To articulate requirements using a suitable language and pace according to the individual, team or group dealing with to aid understanding.
Motivating To provide inspiration and incentives to relevant members toraise and maintain morale, proactiveness and goodwill in the organisation.
Coordinating To synchronise, harmonise and maintain organisational activities.
Controlling To monitor activities and overall progress in relation to the objectives and the pre-set criteria to maintain direction and pace.
Measuring To evaluate the achievement of targets with the use of diverse qualitative and quantitative techniques to determine the effectiveness of methods employed.
Taking Corrective Action. Modify the course of action according to emerging challenges and opportunities so that the desired performance against targets is achieved.
Transparency of Activities. To promote clear policies and procedures so that ambiguity and uncertainty are avoided.
Ethical Practices. To foster fairness, embed moral practices and ensure the good corporate citizenship of the organisation.

Table 1

These functions are relevant at every managerial level to one extent or another, and indeed, to any empowered employee without a formal managerial title.  In fact, it makes good sense for any individual in any context to embrace these functions to improve their performance.  Katz (1974) identified three specific attributes as essential to managers of different levels.  At the top level of management conceptual skills are required more because of the need to formulate strategies.  For middle managers better human and interpersonal skills are more important to manage organisational members effectively and complete tasks.  At the supervisory level, there should be an emphasis on technical skills.  However, regardless of this distinction, all managers in their roles need to have all these attributes because every level of responsibility requires such skills to be successful.

Mintzberg (1973) states that managers in their formal capacity potentially take up three broad types of roles that between them create ten associated roles.  The first broad role is interpersonal and creates the need for a manager to act as a figurehead, a liaison, or a leader.  The second broad role is decisional and creates the need to act as an entrepreneur, resource allocator, disturbance handler, or negotiator.  The third broad role is informational and creates the need to act as a monitor or disseminator, or spokesperson.  However, although a manager according to their level of responsibility may take up some roles more than others, or according to the situation, take up some roles more often than others all these are interrelated and are enacted concurrently rather than independent of each other.

Pedler et al (1994) add that successful managers possess three types of broad attributes and that each attribute involves some specific skills.  The first broad attribute is basic knowledge and information and includes the manager’s command of basic facts and relevant professional understanding.  Then, are the skills and attributes that include continuing sensitivity to events, analytical, problem-solving, and decision/judgement-making skills, social skills, emotional resilience and proactivity.  After, is the meta qualities that include creativity, mental agility, balanced learning habits and skills and self-knowledge.

Figure 1, here below, provides an all-in-one illustration of these aspects to articulate in a concise, yet holistic manner, all these managerial features.

                                                                              Figure 1



This brief article examined the key characteristics of successful managers and leaders and highlighted best practice methods that underpin superior performance to maintain direction and achieve organisational goals.  

As time progressed, and as human know-how evolved to a much more complex and sophisticated level, so did peoples’ perceptions about business environments and competitive terrains.  In past times, where the world was arguably simpler and managers’ views about business more monolithic, so were their thinking and behaviour towards life and business.

Some such examples include the earlier notions that the world was flat and that machines couldn’t fly because they were heavier than air.  Thomas Edison (1880), the inventor of the light bulb and the phonograph amongst others, at one time stated that the phonograph had no commercial value.  Henry Warner (1927), of Warner Brothers, had doubts about cinema audiences that would like to hear actors talking.  Ken Olsen (1977), a co-founder of the Digital Equipment Corporation, believed that there was no reason for an individual to have a computer at home.

Nowadays, however, things have changed, and managers are expected to have broad perceptions and be open to new ideas since the only constant characteristic in life, and consequently in business environments, is change.

Hence it is essential for a manager to be described by a more flexible and adaptable way of thinking and have the ability to satisfy the numerous demands of the varied stakeholder groups.  


  1. Brech E. F. L. (1975), Principles and Practice of Management, Longman, UK, 3rd Ed.
  2. Drucker F. Peter (1977), People and performance, Heinemann.
  3. Fayol Henry (1916), General and Industrial Management, Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, London, UK.  Translated from French by C. Storrs.
  4. Handy Charles B. (1992), Understanding Organisations, Penguin, 4th Ed.
  5. Handy Charles (1996), The Lessons of a Summer Night, Management Today, September
  6. Katz R. L. (1974), Skills of an Effective Administrator, Harvard Business Review, September/October.
  7. Kim Chan (2005), Blue Ocean Strategy, Harvard Business School Press, Boston.
  8. Mintzberg Henry (1973), The Nature of Managerial Work, Harper and Row.

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One thought on “Are you a Manager or a Leader?”

  1. It is a huge challenge to learn new things about how to become a good student, Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • Profession: Trimer

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