The Leader-Manager Dilemma

By Constance B. Wolf

Life and work are getting more complicated. Being clear about roles in an organization are more critical than ever.


In business or non-profit organizations, so much rests on the need to clearly establish the vision and direction of the organization. Whether related to employees, customers, outside stakeholders or volunteers,  effective use of the leadership function may mean the difference between an organization’s growth or demise. To this end, the leader must make effective use of :

Vision & Mission: The leadership in an organization must be concerned with setting the context for why people are there. To what purpose are they spending their time and energy?

Meaningful Work: To obtain the commitment of people requires their belief and participation in an outcome worth their energy. We cannot talk people into a passion for the outcome of their work if they are not involved in some small way in the creation of the possibility of its outcome.

Teamwork: A leader must foster the network of relationships necessary to make work happen. Few roles can accomplish anything without the interdependence that necessitates teamwork, the belief that all are equally concerned with the same end.

Culture: An organization’s culture must be carefully nurtured if it is to continue to embody the values and norms envisioned by the leadership. A leader can influence the culture especially by what is paid attention to, measured, controlled and rewarded.

Communication: The glue that holds it all together. A belief in open communications and the skilled use of it in all its forms are needed. Excellent communications is not simply sending and receiving messages, but the desire to seek out the heartbeat of the organization as well as the conveying of facts.

Empowerment: The conscious belief to give each other the space to grow and reach full potential. As an organizational philosophy, it is realized through the management practices adhered to in basic management style and performance systems.


The manager also has some very specific tasks to perform to ensure the smooth running of the ship and the accomplishment of the vision and mission of the organization.

Planning: In line with the vision and mission of the organization, the planning activity encompasses those aspects of conceptual thinking, strategizing, goal setting, budgeting and allocating resources to ensure the plans can be accomplished. Including both staff and the non-paid stakeholders is very important to ensure commitment.

Organizing: An administrative function which includes making decisions about how to arrange work to accomplish the objectives, delineating relationships and processes, roles and responsibilities and job descriptions.

Staffing: Recruiting or choosing competent people to perform the needed roles , orienting and training them, as well as considering the future needs of the organization and the development needs of the staff is an ongoing need.

Directing: Influencing people to accomplish the desired goals requires a variety of people-managing skills including: communicating, delegating, motivating, coordinating, managing differences, leading change.

Controlling: Ensuring the progress toward one’s goals according to the plan involves performance management, measurement systems, reward and recognition systems, and consequence management.

In conclusion, the functions of Leadership and Management are different. Whether divided across different people within the organization or performed by the same person is not the issue. The real issue is that they be performed to make it the most effective organization possible.

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Connie Wolf is president of Sounding Board®, a service of CBW, Inc. She holds a master's degree in Organization Development and is a graduate of Coach University and the Gestalt Therapist Training Program. She is the creator of the Sounding Board® approach to professional coaching and consulting and can be reached at  or 480-607-1960.