Blog Article

Leader vs. manager: Reality or myth?

06 April 2020

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In business, one of the ongoing and endless discussions is the comparison between leaders and managers. A quick Google search shows over 155 million results on this topic, often contrasting what leaders can do versus what mangers can’t do.

Generally missing in all of these discussions is that companies recruit managers, not leaders. Interestingly, rarely does an organization have a position solely titled “leader”. Recruitment often focuses on the functional roles of an organization—the work, the organizing, the staffing, the controlling. 

A leader is often defined as someone with a combination of expert knowledge and influence who is able to set direction, align people, motivate and inspire towards the achievement of common goals (Kotter, 2001).  In contrast, managers are responsible for overseeing a group of people and getting the work done, a more tactical and transactional role.  Jim Collins, in his book, Good to Great, defines a manager as someone with the ability to organize people and resources toward the efficient pursuit of goals and objectives. Peter Drucker, one of most respected names in business, defines it this way: “Leadership is doing the right things; management is doing things right.”

If the focus is on ‘doing’, then why do we continue to separate these two roles? Are they equivalent? Should both functions be expected by one person, not two?  Organizations need one person who are able to do both lead and manage, who can “do the right things the right way”. Let’s not engage in the age-old debate of manager versus leader. Instead, from an organizational- excellence perspective, let’s compare managers who can manage and lead successfully, versus those who cannot. 


How, then, do we define and measure success?

The key to determining if a manager is successful or not, is based on the delivery of results, and measured as:

1.                Less-than-expected results

2.                Expected results

3.                Better-than-expected results

Accepting the status quo is not an option for any organization. Organizations need managers to always deliver better-than-expected results, with a focus on continuous improvement and excellence.

Results are driven by a set of actions known as performance, whether it is an individual performance or a group performance.  The achievement of results reflects the performance of the manager, linking to their influence on people; how they support continuous improvement; their resource-based decisions; and the implementation of policies and strategies that contribute to the success through their skills.

Managers should clearly understand their roles and how they link strategy to execution. They need to clearly define what it is they want to achieve, and identify the required skills needed to deliver better-than-expected results, and to sustain a competitive advantage.

From an organizational skills development perspective, there are key considerations: How do organizations and managers engage in self-assessment and define these skills and design opportunities for development? Does a ‘one size fits all” approach work?  Do coaching and mentoring play a role?

Ultimately, the core question is this: If companies are searching for, and recruiting, first-class managers, how are they developing them as the people to lead the organization to achieve high-performance standards?

Regardless if they are called leadership or management skills, they are essential in getting the job done.


About the Author 

Executive Coach, Mentor and Change Architect

Bilal is an experienced leader and change architect. Drawing on his success as a CEO, he now translates his passion for driving high performance in both sports and business through the development of strong leaders.

After eight years as CEO of the group consisting of Xerox Emirates, Avis UAE, and Bosch - Home Wide UAE, among other companies, Bilal retired with the objective of investing more time as an advisor to various Boards, venture capital, and the development of leaders through coaching and mentoring. He drove change by partnering with his team and developing leaders to build the right talent capabilities to successfully deliver their company’s strategy and supported significant change initiatives for various projects.

Bilal draws on both his sports training as a Black Belt Dan 4 Karate International player and coach as well as his business leadership success to coach senior and emerging leaders.  This unique combination of sports and business excellence gives him a distinctive edge as a coach.  The rigor of structures, the need for self-discipline, the ability to perform under pressure and the drive to achieve a personal best, to deliver results that are better than expected, are the core foundations of his work. He instills the values of trust and integrity and recognizes that the key to any future success is people.

As a coach, he helps leaders create a culture for success, with a relentless focus on both on people and results.  His work recognizes both the transactional and transformational work of a leader. Bilal draws on his own experiences in sports and business to help leaders implement structures and strategies to achieve their vision. He combines logic, honesty and vision and to help leaders gain clarity about their leadership style, ambitions and directions for future success.  His approach is customized to ensure that the actions and learnings complement the vision, values, culture and strategy of the organization of the client.

Bilal holds a degree in Computer Programming & Informatics from BATC College, Beirut, Lebanon in addition to an MBA in Marketing from International University, Missouri, USA.  Currently, he is pursuing a Doctorate with Henley Business School – University of Reading, Reading, UK, with a focus on leadership. He is a Black Belt Dan 4 Karate International player, Instructor, coach and country representative. Bilal resides in Canada with his family.



Mood Group evangelises and subscribes to the philosophy of the English Proverb – Experience is neither inheritance nor legacy!

We advocate that its in our client’s best interests to focus their attention and resources to the areas of their business they know best, and would be considered unique to themselves.

As part of a process of “realisation” and “thinking outside of the box”, and particularly in these most challenging of times, Mood Group are introducing a season of guest authors from the Print & Packaging & Industrial Processing sectors whose words might provide “food for thought” and "inspiration" to those seeking additional ideas on how to improve their business and also how to navigate the present changes as they develop and unfold.

Where ever requested Mood Group has the most comprehensive worldwide register of talented individuals such as this author and others similar, that we can introduce you to whose services are available either on a permanent or non permanent basis.

Marcus Doo - Managing Partner - Mood Group 


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