Authority is one of the clearest distinctions between a leader and a manager.

I’ve been writing about this in my recent posts. The definitions of leader and manager are complex, and often the subject of much debate. Any comprehensive comparison reveals a definite overlap between the two.

But the distinctions are important: how you oversee, direct and assess completion of staff activities radically affects your direct reports.

As with other aspects of administration, authority can take dramatically different tracks:

  • Leaders push authority down to the farthest possible level. Followers join in by choice.
  • Managers reserve authority for themselves. Subordinates submit by requirement.
  • Leaders develop trust by charting the authority map.
  • Managers assure compliance by following an authority map.
  • Leaders set the pace.
  • Managers enforce the pace.

Business executive and philanthropist Vineet Nayar offers an interesting observation in a 2013 Harvard Business Review article, “Three Differences Between Managers and Leaders:”

  • Leaders create circles of influence, where people desire to follow.
  • Managers create circles of power, where people are required to comply politically.

What Your Behavior Reveals

Everyone notices your behavior, and it takes only a few actions to reveal your character traits. People watch your behavior and discern who you are, looking for patterns that indicate what kind of support they’ll receive. When discussing this with my coaching clients, we discuss how their behavior signals employees how their work experience will be: difficult, or easy.

Below is a list of behaviors, distinguished by leader or manager. Where do your behaviors align? Do you agree or disagree with the distinctions?

  • Leaders exemplify a noble set of rules that others attempt to emulate.
  • Managers tend to operate under a separate set of rules, with little concern for people’s impressions.
  • Leaders prioritize the needs of others.
  • Managers prioritize their personal needs.
  • Leaders seek notoriety for their people.
  • Managers seek notoriety for themselves.
  • Leaders’ notoriety is based on their interpersonal attributes.
  • Managers’ notoriety is based on their technical attributes.

What do you think? Is your authority similar to a leader, or a manager? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 561-582-6060; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

Showing 2 comments
  • Tamela

    Great article!

    Now the question to ask is how does my staff see me? As a leader or manager.

    Thanks for the growth!

    • Coach Nancy

      Really, the best way to find out is to have an open and honest discussion about what they need from you. As you LISTEN to the answers, you will HEAR their answer to this by the words and actions they express. Interestingly, simply asking them what they think the differences are and then ask them how you can do better at both, you will gain enormous clarity.

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