Abraham Zaleznik in an article from the Harvard Business Review in the early 90‘s describes the difference between a manager and a leader in many ways. He describes the characteristics of a manager as they:
-Like to maintain existing systems, relationships, and processes
-Tend to mediate, negotiate, and balance opposing viewpoints
-Like to work with others, but keep a low level of emotional involvement
-Like structure and are survival oriented when it comes to taking risk
The characteristics of a leader from Zaleznik’s point of view are:
-Adopt a personal and active attitude towards goals by evoking images, moods and expectations of the direction a business could take
-Are risk takers and idea generators
-Relate in more intuitive and empathetic ways - get involved in thinking through how things affect people
-Are described with adjectives rich in emotional content
-They develop through personal mastery, which impels an individual to struggle for psychological and social change
-Are more like artists, scientists, and other creative thinkers than like managers
These descriptors are fascinating to me as it relates that managers are great at keeping the status quo - making current systems, processes, and structures as efficient, effective, and productive as possible. Leaders on the other hand have gone through struggles, have come into their own, and are willing to take the risks and push the envelope in a way that is visionary, intuitive, and innovative. They also develop intense relationships with others that can be volatile, which in some ways allows them to be more empathetic.
In my view leaders have a lot of personal strength first because they often go through struggle to become a “twice born” as Zaleznik calls it and therefore have the internal fortitude to push the envelope as they become a leader not only in their own lives, but for others.
With these descriptions are you more of a manager or a leader? What traits most define you when dealing with others or in your work life? If you aspire to be a leader how can you integrate more of the leadership qualities into your life?
Monica Thakrar has over 18 years experience in business focused mainly on strategy, change management, leadership development, training and coaching resulting in successful implementations of large scale transformation programs.