Manager vs Leader


  • Follow Top Down
  • Try to verify that the team member is wrong
  • Teach by ordering
  • Fire if not following
  • Hire if following and no questions asked
  • Willing to make team members work


  • Voice bottom up
  • Try to advocate team member’s opinion
  • Teach by nurture and growth
  • Fire if not fit for culture
  • Hire if fit the culture and has innate passion
  • Willing to do same work as team members

Work is something that we do as a group. For different groups, based on their work and functions, role described above tends form in order to increase efficiency of their functions. We tend to look at leaders as a silver bullet and something more valuable however we should note that it’s different value traded working at different forms. Here are pros and cons;

Manager pros/cons:

  • Can stabilize and replicate the managerial form cheaply and easily.
  • Workers are easily likely to create aversion towards managerial form if workers are under stress.
  • It is possible to restrain actions based on fear of being fired for not following the manager.
  • It is easier to control act of work by evaluating worker top down and encourage/discourage.
  • Workers will try to create and retain their functions to fit the structure.
  • Hierarchical political conflicts focus on unified order rather than the goal itself.

Leader pros/cons

  • Can inspire passionate work and commitment to let workers work on will.
  • Workers become goal-centric.
  • Workers will try to experiment and challenge the structure while they are trying to find solutions.
  • Takes extra effort to build and foster managerial form.
  • It is often hard to scale in size.
  • Some workers will abuse trust.
  • It will be easier for workers and higher role to point their faults at the leader when workers are not given orders but given room for free role, especially if things aren’t working out very well. Leader becomes a vulnerable role considering Self-serving bias workers will have.
  • Judging the value of opinion within a group will be difficult and there is high chance over time that there will be unhappy workers even when the judging process is fair and the best for the goal. It is crucial to keep them minority but the number tends to grow over time because workers will remember when their opinion was undervalued more than when it was valued properly.

One last important note is that the success factors are NOT dependent on a personal skill level. Successful Manager or Leader is dependent on the organization to strongly reinforce adopt the paradigm or not.


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