Leader vs. Manager:
What’s the Distinction?
by Craig Perrin
A BUSINESS ISSUE
The Question QUICK READ
“What’s the difference between a We presented this early model to focus
leader and a manager?” groups of executives and middle man-
Well-worn as that question may be, it agers in a range of industries and the
remains worth asking because times public sector. Their real-world experi-
change, and leaders succeed when ence confirmed some themes, added About Craig Perrin
their words, decisions, and actions new ones, and helped refine the model As AchieveGlobal’s Director of
address prevailing conditions. We all for quantitative testing. Solution Development, Craig is
suspect, for example, that solving a thought leader who works
We then designed and launched an cross-functionally and with clients
today’s extraordinary problems will online survey in the United States, to guide creation of a range of
take someone other than the all- Mexico, India, China, Singapore, responses to market needs. Since
business manager who kept us on Germany, and the United Kingdom, 1986 he has played a central role
the tracks – and then ran us off the gathering 971 responses from business in developing the company’s
tracks – over the past few years. and government leaders and associ- flagship programs in leadership,
ates. Respondents represented global sales, and customer service;
To answer this and other questions, co-authored two best-selling
the AchieveGlobal research team set and domestic-only organizations rang-
ing from fewer than 500 to more than books; written many articles and
out to discover how leaders succeed – position papers; and produced
to isolate their central concerns and 25,000 employees. eLearning and video that have
activities – in today’s business climate. earned scores of national and
The Findings international awards. In 1998,
Craig was named Times Mirror
The Research Our principal findings were 42 leader- Editor of the Year. Craig holds a
We defined a multi-phased process, ship practices1 – some behavioral, B.A. and M.A. from San
exploring secondary and primary some cognitive – required to meet key Francisco State University.
sources, to collect and analyze qualita- global leadership challenges isolated by
tive and quantitative data. To begin, we the research:
captured key themes from two years of • Cost pressures
articles in eight respected peer-
reviewed journals from Europe, Asia,
and the Americas. • Improving customer satisfaction
• Technology challenges
We reviewed all article abstracts, read
and summarized 80 full articles, and • Driving sales growth
developed a provisional leadership • Employee productivity
model – a hypothesis, if you will – to • Product/service innovation
guide the primary research.
1 We defined “practice” as a behavior
or thought process, i.e. something a
leader does, or about which he or she
has evolving thoughts and feelings.
Developing the 21st
century workforce TM
We sorted the 42 practices into six • Reflect often on their performance
categories, or “zones,” to form a com- as a leader.
prehensive model of leadership in the • Give serious consideration to opinions
21st century. that differ from their own.
• Speak frankly with others to learn from
The Leadership Zone Model them and build trust.
Zone 2 – Society: Leaders apply princi-
ples such as fairness, respect, and “the
greater good” to balance individual and
Business Reﬂection group well-being. To succeed in this zone,
• Act ethically to serve the larger good,
not just to obey the law.
• Encourage others to take socially
• Openly challenge what they consider
Ingenuity Diversity unethical decisions and actions.
• Take action to benefit others, not just
• Recognize and reward others based on
Statistical analysis confirmed that all six merit, not on politics.
zones correlate very highly with each • Make fair decisions, even if they have
other, suggesting that the six zones a negative impact on themselves.
triangulate on a larger leadership construct.
• Take steps to reduce environmental
In other words, the six-zone approach is
Zone 3 – Diversity: Leaders respect
and leverage such basic differences as
gender, ethnicity, age, nationality, and
As useful as statistics may be, most lead- beliefs. To succeed in this zone, leaders:
ers will find greater use in the practices
• Strive to meet the needs of customers
themselves – listed here with a short
representing other cultures.
behavioral definition for each zone:
• Encourage collaboration among people
Zone 1 – Reflection: Leaders assess from different groups.
their motives, beliefs, attitudes, and
• Display sensitivity in managing across
actions, asking, “How can I make sure my
2 A full research report with detailed cultural boundaries.
limitations don’t lead me to make poor
statistical analysis is available from
decisions?” To succeed in this zone, leaders: • Collaborate well with people very
AchieveGlobal. Among other statistical
analyses, we tested the internal
different from themselves.
• Take responsibility for their own
consistency and accuracy of this • Effectively lead groups made up of
model by calculating a Cronbach’s mistakes.3
very diverse people.
alpha. This alpha value was .983, • Seek the knowledge required to make
indicating a highly consistent and • Learn about the business practices
sense of the big picture.
accurate description of leadership of other cultures.
today (1.0 is perfect), and therefore • Examine what role they play in the
a very reliable model. • Manage virtual teams with explicit
challenges that they face.
customer-centric goals and practices.
3 The top-rated leadership practice in • Treat failure as a chance to learn
our survey. and grow.
Zone 4 – Ingenuity: Leaders offer • Manage the costs of operation.
and execute practical ideas – and help • Learn new ways to make the business
others do the same – to create a cli- competitive.
mate in which innovation can thrive.
• Develop and implement effective
To succeed in this zone, leaders:
• Help other people to adapt quickly
• Analyze and use hard data to
promote business results.
• Help groups to develop a shared
• Manage customer acquisition,
picture of a positive future.
retention, and lifetime value.
• Develop themselves with the goal of
• Add clarity to their organization’s
improving overall group capabilities.
vision and values.
• Solve real-world problems by
thinking clearly and engaging others.
The Answer Today
• Tell stories to motivate others
What answer do these findings offer for
toward strategic goals.
our earlier question about the difference
• Create a work environment in between a leader and a manager?
which innovation can thrive.
An analogy may illustrate: The zone
• Find ways to promote speed,
model suggests that the difference
flexibility, and innovation.
between a manager and a leader is very
Zone 5 – People: Leaders connect much like the difference between a
with others on the human level shared raisin and a grape.
by all to earn commitment, inspire
effort, and improve communication. If a raisin is a grape with something vital
To succeed in this zone, leaders: missing – water – so a manager is
a leader with many vital things missing.
• Read a range of emotions in others
Through the lens of this model, a
and respond appropriately.
“manager” is competent primarily in
• Adapt to the leadership needs of one zone: Business. Managers make and
different groups. execute plans and decisions, organize
• Help others resolve issues of the work of others, and guide effort
work-life balance. toward predicted results.
• Make a daily effort to inspire the “Leaders” must do these things, too,
trust of customers and colleagues. but our study indicates that leaders
• Minimize the negative human impact also demonstrate other interests and
of their decisions and actions. abilities grouped in the model in the
• Build and maintain a cross-functional other five zones: Reflection, Society,
task network. Diversity, Ingenuity, and People.
• Communicate well with customers Just as a raisin has vital nutritional
and colleagues at all levels. value, a “manager” has vital organiza-
tional value. In fact, survey respon-
Zone 6 – Business: Leaders develop
dents at every level in every global
strategies, make and execute plans and
region consistently rated the Business
decisions, organize the work of others,
zone more highly than other zones –
and guide effort toward predicted
and for good reason: without business
results. To succeed in this zone, leaders:
results, no one succeeds.
• Adapt quickly to changing business
conditions. Business savvy alone is not enough