Focus on Leadership


Alexander Kopylov


Not long ago I came across a topic published on one of the Internet websites devoted to the comparison of managers and leaders. I was very surprised by what I read there. How unhappy managers are!

How unhappy managers are!

Unlike leaders they have no imagination and creativity, they keep up conflicts, rely on logic and facts only, use the command style of management, and so on and so forth. I suppose I have never seen in my life any more critical description of managerial qualities. Some people will tell me that it is not so important and I should not pay attention to it. I don’t agree with it. Such opinion about the role of managers certainly reflects some prevailing concepts though obviously exaggerated.

Probably, it is the reason why the word “management” is gradually disappearing and the word “leadership” is more frequently used instead, especially in the Western countries, in the USA, first and foremost. Visit the website of Coca Cola and you will find section “Leadership” in the drop-up menu about the Company. In this section the leaders of the organization, or, to put it otherwise, its top managers, are presented. It is clear why these people are called “leaders,” rather than “managers,” and it is not by chance.

What is the reason of it? Why the difference between managers and leaders has appeared at all? Each time I want to ask those who differentiate these two notions as the two worlds: “Say, don’t the so called “leaders” write reports, prepare presentations, hire or fire staff, meet with customers? Don’t the so called “managers” use imagination and creativity when they launch new products, draw up plans and presentations? Or, if they speak to their staff members don’t they motivate them demonstrating their vision and describing the future?” Strange differentiation …

Those who oppose managers to leaders make the world’s picture simplified and watered down. Leadership and management are different operating systems which are not isolated but exist in harmony complementing each other. They are needed and used at various times. Certainly, you can speak about preferences and aptitudes. But each person in charge must have a combination of both.

I don’t mind if any manager is called “leader” implying the leadership only. But the matter is that the word “leader” has many various meanings, including “the best,” “the first.” Don't you agree that to be the best, the first and to be a manager is not the same? It may be, certainly, but often managers appear to be far from being the best and the first. If a manager happens to be a bad manager it is a pity, of course, but the people understand that he is one of many, some part of an imperfect system where bad managers do exist. A leader cannot afford it by definition. Or we simply substitute notions. Don’t say you are a leader, say that you are a manager and we will treat the situation with understanding.

It is clear that the differentiation of managers and leaders has not appeared by chance. It is a reflection of real life where both, leadership and management, may exist. There are companies which attain outstanding objectives. Outstanding achievements belong to outstanding managers who are named leaders. Sure, if you are a foreman of a workshop brigade consisting of 7 people it would be somehow inappropriate to call you a leader. I hope that the reader understands that I am speaking ironically.

In order to reconcile managers with leaders I would recommend the reader to study the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. The author of this book describes the hierarchy of managers which includes 5 steps. In my opinion, according to Jim Collins the 5th level manager can be called “leader” meaning that he is “the best, the first.”

Finally, I would like to recommend that the reader familiarize with the article written by professor Henry Mintzberg “Best leadership is a good management.”. Everything professor describes in his book is clear to me. Professor is also surprised that executive officers are divided into managers and leaders. And I like it very much that at the end of the article the author calls for making all managers leaders. I vote “for!”