I have a question: What is the difference between a leader and a manager?

Management is doing things right; Leadership is doing the right things

Last week I suggested that there is actually a distinct difference between leaders and managers and that we shouldn’t use these terms interchangeably.

In his widely acclaimed book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey asks us to imagine a group of people cutting their way through a jungle – clearing a path and getting rid of the under-growth. These people are the producers – the problem solvers – the people who create the final output of a business. The producers serve the customers, on behalf of the business.

Behind the producers is another group of people helping the producers to get their work done. These people are sharpening the machetes, creating muscle development programs, bringing in new technologies to improve efficiency, setting up work schedules and compensation programs, and writing policy and procedure manuals to keep everyone productive, efficient and safe.

They are the managers. Their job is to ensure that the producers have the right tools, at the right time, and in the right way, so that the work of the business happens as efficiently as possible. Managers serve the producers, on behalf of the business.

The leader climbs the tallest tree, surveys the land and ensures that the work is happening in the right jungle. This is the CEO, whose job it is to ask questions like: “What jungle are we in?” and “What jungle should we be in?” The CEO should also be constantly scanning the environments – political, economic, societal, technological, physical, and legal – for changes and trends that might impact the business today and in the future. The CEO sets the direction and shares the vision with everyone in the organization. The CEO ultimately serves everyone – the customers, the producers, the managers, and the greater community – on behalf of the business.

“Effectiveness – often even survival – does not depend solely on how much effort we expend, but on whether or not the effort we expend is in the right jungle.” – Stephen Covey

I think I better understand how leaders and managers are different now and how without a clear vision, even the best managers and producers will struggle to be effective in ensuring the survival of the business. Is it clearer for you as well?

We believe in you. Gung Ho Friends!