Give it Up. Leader versus Manager

Transitioning People Through Constant Change

In this series of posts I am exploring the Give It Up model in which we move away from the command and control of managers to the delegation and trust of true leaders. You can read the first in the series here.


Leader versus manager

There has been much written about the difference between a leader and a manager. The main difference is that leaders do not necessarily have a position of ‘given’ authority. People follow a leader because they are inspirational and motivational, and because they build a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. People choose whether to follow a leader.

A manager is given a position of authority and people have a choice whether to follow them. People work for managers, they don't follow them.

In our analogy of manager, coach, and player, our managers are true leaders. For the comprehension of this narrative, I will call them leader-managers. While our leader-managers have to ensure day-to-day activities are happening as needed (management), they also lead. 


True leader-managers have followers and create circles of influence. At anytime a leader can be a follower and a follower can be a leader. Followership is about the follower enhancing the relationship between the follower and the leader and collectively working towards shared outcomes.

Followers and leaders can share the same traits and characteristics. Being a follower or a leader depends on the given context.

An ineffective follower is enthusiastic, intelligent, and self-reliant participation in the pursuit of an organisational goal.

Good leaders-managers, understand followership – what it means and how to bring it about. Leader-managers recognise what motivates people to follow in different situations and deploy the most appropriate strategies.


The leader-manager creates a shared vision, and inspires and motivates people to turn that vision into a reality. 

They are able to explain why the organization exists. Does it exist just to make product A, or does it exist to improve the life of others? What greater good does the organization strive to achieve? When this true sense of organizational purpose is elucidated, it can instil a sense of purpose into everyone.

Everyone starts moving in the same direction with the energy and vigor to make the vision a reality.

leadership woman copy.jpg

Risk tolerance 

Respected leaders have a tolerance to risk. They are willing to try new things and allow others to do the same. Failure is accepted. It is a chance to learn and move on. The leader-manager encourages innovation, creativity, and experimentation. They accept that when mistakes happen, it is just one step on a journey to greater things.


While managers wish to retain the status quo, our leader-managers are ready to disrupt it. They challenge the status quo. They initiate, drive, and embrace change. They accept that constant change is the way it is if the organization is to thrive in the face of increasing disruption. They encourage everyone to look for better ways to work through being creative and innovative, and by embracing a mantra of continual improvement.

Hands off

The leader-manager doesn't direct people nor tell them what to do or how to do it. They believe in the capability and potential of their people and allow them to self-manage. If they need support and direction, they know they can get it whenever they need it but they are not micromanaged. They know that their people often have the best answers. The leader-manager recognizes that people nearer the action are best placed to make decisions and initiate change because they have far more knowledge about the situation than those in management positions.

Game score

Winning teams don’t do great things because they were told to. They have the power to make great things happen. They are free to experiment, create and innovate.

In subsequent posts in this series I will be exploring the additional elements of the Give It Up model.

Karen FerrisComment