From the Commander Leadership

Does being a Manager make you a “Leader”?

Written by AJ Powell

ADM_Mullen_addressesRecently, a question was posed to me…

“To be an effective manager, one must also be an effective leader; however, one can be an effective leader without necessarily being an effective manager.” Do you agree with this statement?

I am inclined to disagree.

To start, there is a major difference between Leadership and Management. Management is more of a “Nuts and Bolts” type of work, the “Running of the daily grind”. Management is all about keeping of the schedules, passing on and enforcing policy, monitoring of progress and recording results. All of these things are important to an organization, but not one of them equates to what Leadership is.

Leadership – by definition – is: “The ability to provide purpose, direction, and motivation, while operating to accomplish the mission, and improve the organization.” (ADP 6-22, 2014). Here, we have an individual who is able to get other individuals to act in unison for the accomplishment of a common goal.

This means that Leadership is far more than simply the control over others, assigning of tasks, and overseeing of operations. Leaders – unlike managers – are more than mere facilitators of actions, they are coaches, guides, mentors and teachers. This sets them apart from managers by entirely different standards. Even Bennis sums up the differences nicely when he states, “The manager administers; the leader innovates. The manager is a copy; the leader is an original. The manager maintains; the leader develops. The manager focuses on systems and structures; the leader focuses on people. The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust. The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective. The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why. The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon. The manager imitates; the leader originates. The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it. The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person. The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.” (Bennis, 2009, p. 42).

Leaders, thus, must be gauged differently, and Leadership – again, unlike management – expands beyond simply the professional, but into the personal. As such, Leadership is the encompassment of an individual’s entire life, and the endeavors that individual has made to become more well-rounded. Leaders must then could only be self-made.


Any fool could be put into management. With some education and fairly competent organizational skills, managers can become effective at task control and resource facilitation. Yet, only when the individual moves beyond the tasks of policy enforcement and bottom lines, and begin the development of the self, do they see that it is not behind a desk where true Leadership lies, but out in the field, on the floor, in the line, out front.

I disagree that effective managers must be effective leaders, for managers need never be leaders at all to be effective. During my military career I have seen thousands of managers who were told they were “Leaders”, and called Leaders, yet very rarely did I ever come across a real Leader. These managers were both Non-Commissioned Officers and Officers at all levels, who were effective at their jobs, and effective at running the military machine, but they were nothing more than cogs themselves, policy pushers, not innovators, nor challengers. They maintained one, maybe two of the three legs of Core Leadership Skills, but never all three. As such, they were nothing more than facilitators of actions, and despite their ability to produce results, they were never leaders of any kind.

To become a Leader, we need to develop the “Self”, both personally and professionally. To become an effective Leader, we need to develop all three areas of Interpersonal, Administrative, and Conceptual skills. What does this mean? It means that, while any fool could be a good manager, being a manager in no way means you are a Leader. Furthermore, while being a Leader may not mean you are a good manager, being an effective Leader, however, does.

Sound Off!

Many people begin their professional lives believing that “management” is equal to “being a leader”, and in that respect, many people don’t actually begin their Leadership Development Journey until they are finally about to embark onto a position of management…

In what ways can you think of to describe the differences between Management and Leadership? How are they different when it comes to education and development for either of them?

If you are a student just starting out, which do you think you should focus your attention on first?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! Then, read other peoples thoughts on the subject and see if you can find ways to improve upon their position, or if you disagree, state why… Together Everyone Accomplishes More.


– Army Leadership – Competent, Confident, and Agile. Army Publishing Directorate (2014), Headquarters, Department of the Army.

– On Becoming a Leader. Warren Bennis (2009).

About the author

AJ Powell

AJ is a retired U.S. Army NCO who served in both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army. He is a combat veteran, and has participated in contingency operations around the world. AJ is the Owner of Veteran Leadership Solutions, the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Warfighter Journal, and is a published Sociological Analyst, Researcher, Guest Lecturer, and Public Speaker. He is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a focus on Sociology and a science degree in Organizational Leadership, and is published in the field of sociology. AJ is an inductive analyst; public figure; researcher/writer; aviator; a certified advanced operational diver; professional instructor, trainer, mentor, and adviser; snowboarder; motorcycle rider; world traveler; he enjoys long distance endurance events, and much more.