Continuing the migration of older content from my original blog to this one I came across this oldy but goody. As I think back to what drove me to write this one (2011 or 2012) I can remember the exact “manager” that had me frustrated with their constant self-promotion and their self-serving promotion of one of their pawns. I truly feel they were in it for themselves and only themselves. Heavy emphasis on “feel” as there is no way I could truly know their motivations. They were not my direct manager or anywhere in my chain of command. I have been fortunate to have reported to good leaders who either provided good mentorship or let me get things done. This was someone outside my matrix who couldn’t “stay in their lane” and was so full of themselves. (again, my opinion) Regardless, the message is the same and something I hope you will take to heart for yourself and your team. If you lead other leaders, please ensure you are mentoring them to be true leaders, not managers.

The difference is huge!

  • A MANAGER considers his team pawns to be maneuvered to accomplish his goals.
    • A LEADER considers them partners to help accomplish THEIR collective goals.
  • A MANAGER is bossy.
    • A LEADER is assertive with confidence and clear direction on what is expected.
  • A MANAGER assigns tasks.
    • A LEADER develops a plan (involving and utilizing input from the team) for success.
  • A MANAGER thinks only they have the right answers. 
    • A LEADER is open to suggestions and not only will, but desires to, listen to new ideas and feedback. 
  • A MANAGER is a middleman communicating what those above told her to do.
    • A LEADER has a vision and works with their team to build the plan and tell those above what they plan to do and why.
  • A MANAGER loves “problems” from their team so they can claim they fixed them.
    • A LEADER loves “solutions” so they can join and guide the process of bringing them to fruition. 
  • A MANAGER says “Do as I say.”
    • A LEADER says “I think we should do this. What do you think? Let’s achieve something great together.”
  • A MANAGER thinks he rules the team.
    • A LEADER knows he serves the team and does so with a bias to success.
  • A MANAGER considers her role a task.
    • A LEADER considers her role a gift. 
  • A MANAGER takes credit for every achievement and talks about “opportunity with so-and-so” on every failure.
    • A LEADER is magnanimous (my dollar word for the week) promoting the team’s successes as widely as possible across the organization giving them all the credit.

Leaders instill in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals.


This has nothing to do with actual titles; it is about your philosophy.  You can have MANAGER in your title and be a great LEADER.

Let’s talk about the last bullet for a moment as I feel it is a foundational element of good leadership and is given far too little focus. It’s a tricky one as I mentioned in Produce & Promote. Many “managers” promote their teams to a point that is not justified. I am confident their motives are entirely self-serving because they look to appear as some sort of great team builder or mentor.  There is too much “I” in their story, and if something goes wrong, they will turn on their people to cast blame like a ravenous dog. Ok, maybe that’s not completely a fair statement. I forgot that before they turn on their people, they will look to cast blame elsewhere first; then if that isn’t possible – – – let the cannibalism begin. At the other end of the spectrum are the almost-leaders who are not promoting their people well enough and allowing the great talent in their team to basically “die on the vine.”  It’s all about balance. 


I consider myself a “Window-Mirror” leader. With every success, I look out the window to my team that made it happen, and with every failure, I look in the mirror to figure out what I could have done differently to drive a better outcome. There may be specific needs for coaching team members on specific shortfalls, but at the end of the day, publically, a LEADER takes responsibility for the lack of results.  It’s most certainly a two-way street.  Even great leaders will only be as successful as their teams will allow. If you don’t have a team of “owners” guess who’s to blame – YOU!

I could continue this list for hours because “The difference is HUGE!” But I want to hear what you have to add.  How do you see the difference between plain Managers and true Leaders? 

Let’s build it together.  Tell me your thoughts and let’s get the list rolling!

If you rate yourself as a manager – sorry.  I hope you will take stock not offense.

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