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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Are you a manager or a leader? Can you be both?

Mark-Haugen.jpgTime is like money. If you don't invest it properly, you will not receive the return you are looking for. How do we in youth development organizations decide where to spend our limited time, to get the return we need?

I see two ways to go about it: Shall we be managers of groups, events, volunteer programs, finances and day-to-day activities? Or should we focus our efforts, as leaders, supporting evolution and growth of programs as a chief motivating officer? If you reviewed how you spend your time, would it show you to be a manager or a leader?

Both managers and leaders support teams of people to achieve their goals. Like many of you, I often feel like a firefighter putting out fires, with a daily barrage of emails, lining up details and prepping for the next meeting or event. I ask myself, "Is this what I should be doing?"
Holly Caracappa, on the popular blog Leadership Freak, summarizes the two roles in the workforce and how both are needed. I've created a graphic that maps it out (see right). What if you are the only manager and leader in your organization? Can you play both roles?
I've seen many gifted individuals blend the two. In my observation leaders with management skills are highly effective in accomplishing goals. I also see managers with leadership skills who are able to lead organizations to improve and grow. If we are not both can we develop skills of the other?
I am interested in your thoughts! Do you see yourself as a manager, leader or both? Which role receives the majority of your attention and time? Do you budget time in your day or week to focus on your role as a leader?
Throughout the spring I will continue to reflect on this topic and will present new thoughts, links and your comments in a blog post this May. I'm excited to read your comments, have some friendly debate and learn from you!

-- Mark Haugen, Extension educator, regional 4-H youth development programs

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.


  1. Great graphic! It made me think about my role as a small business owner and how I'd like to marry the two (leadership and management) better in the years to come.

  2. This makes me think about how our roles often include both, and one of the challenges is knowing when to be which more heavily...
    it also makes me wonder how organizational systems do or do not help shape whether "leaders" function more as managers or leaders...for example do we call people "leaders" but really only expect them to operate as a manager? do their attempts at taking on leadership functions get "squashed" by others? Do we make it safe for leaders to embrace risks enough...or do we prefer the ease of stability?
    Lots of good questions to ponder! THanks for starting the discussion Mark!

  3. I agree Ann. Embracing risk is risky! So how can we provide these opportunities in a way that allow us all to grow? I love how my questions, cause you to ask questions, that lead to a question from me!

  4. Just to get people talking about my questions...I think that for many years I was mostly a manager. I hadn't really emphasized , nor given time, to my leadership role. I remember when I first learned about leadership techniques and I was like "Woah! I need to start doing that!" I think I am fairly balanced between the two roles but occasionally feel myself swing too far to one side for what I am asked to do.

  5. I think in Extension that roles have the opportunity (and need) to be both a leader and a manager. For example, I look at program leadership as doing the right Program (creating the vision based on needs and priorities), while management is doing the program right. I don't carve out time to do one or the other; instead, it's the way I step back and approach all of my work. I'm curious if other readers take a different approach to leadership/management of programs and leadership/management of human resources?

  6. I'm not sure I qualify to offer an educated summation of your work but I agree on your points, often a talented leader gets bogged down managing and if their management skills lack in any area their leadership ability is then questioned..

  7. Nice post mark! And an interesting question. I think the difference between manager and leader is that manager is a title and people might do what you say because of that title. If people view you as a leader, they follow you because they believe in what you stand for and feel inspired.

  8. I like this post! In my new position it makes me rethink how I go about doing things. Right now I am a definite Manager as I learn the new role. But if I think back to my most recent position I would like to think I incorporated both the Leadership and Management role into my work. This post definitely makes me think again about how I grow the program for the future.

  9. I hear you Krista! I can see how beginning a new role the focus will need to be on the management side as you learn. How long do you think it will take you to intentionally focus a bit more on your leadership role?

  10. Hi, Mark. This is a really important topic, particularly for those of us who supervise others, whether those others are volunteers, interns, or staff. How you supervise makes a big difference in how things get done at the program level. There has to be a balance between making sure the right things get done the right way (managing), and allowing enough freedom for people to be able to come up with innovative ideas, take necessary risks to see how those ideas work, and tweak them along the way (leadership). But it's important to note that managing and leading are not really opposites of a pendulum--there needs to be both. A strong leader knows when to push the cart back on the track, and when to let it go off the track for a bit. Maybe it will carve out a better path! There's not a great guidebook for doing this--it mostly comes with practice, I think.

  11. Good thoughts, Mark. I think I am a leader who knows how to manage (although sometimes I feel like a manager who gets to lead once in a while!). For me, leadership means knowing your strengths and complementing those with the strengths of others. For example, I am not great at technology or graphic design, but I have found others who are, and figured out how to work together. Leading is part of management - it is being able to see beyond the day-to-day tasks and embrace the broad future.

  12. This is timely and useful. I really like the graphic. I do think, however, we are working in an environment that is so harsh that sustainability for survival is a necessary step towards ensuring a future. From a perspective of over 30 years, the pendulum shifts between taking risks to drive forward and needing to preserve enough infrastructure to survive as an organization in hard times while maintaining a focus on the future and continuing to improve. I think the difference in how we engage in sustainability and how we view it is qualitative. I'm interested in other's experiences in this.

  13. Susan,
    I love your thoughts. One of the articles I considered linking to was "Who Is the Leader of the Future?"
    by Vineet Nayar. I think that you would greatly appreciate the thoughts. In the article it asks "What does survival really mean? Does it mean simply "not to die" or does it mean "succeed"? Here is the may enjoy the article.

  14. Great post and questions! I think that I'm both a manager and leader - I'd like to think that I do both of these an equal amount of time. However, it often seems like my time is consumed in managing and I don't have as much time as I'd like to lead. I don't always have scheduled time to lead, but maybe that's what we need to do to ensure that we make this a priority with all of the busyness that our positions require.

  15. This is a very interesting topic. At first glance I really thought of myself as both a manger and a leader, pretty evenly. My view was one had to have the other to be successful. As I look at your graphic, I think I manage more but drop over into the leadership area.
    I'm taking an online course right now and we just finished a discussion on being intentional. I think I may need to be more intentional about budgeting time for my leadership role.
    I like Jessica's comments on finding a balance in our work. Its what I try to do, sometimes it is more difficult that I would like it to be.

  16. Margo Herman, Extension Center for Youth DevelopmentFebruary 11, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    This is such a great posting, Mark! As we kick off our Leadership Matters Online course through the Extension Center for Youth Development tomorrow we will have 26 youth work supervisors discussing this very topic. We have people from 7 states registered and I am very intrigued by the potential discussion we will have! Teaching this course content for the last couple years has produced some very rich perspective on the challenges of balancing leadership and management. Most often I hear that it is incredibly hard to carve out time for leadership perspective because we are so busy "trying to do things right" as they have been determined by the organization. Trying to stand up on the balcony to see "what is the right thing to be doing" needs to be very intentional practice. And very challenging, I might add. I look forward to continuing dialogue about this in the future. Perhaps I can report back tomorrow afternoon some of the great thinking that comes out of our cohort of 26 people from around 7 states!

  17. I think you can be leader and a manager at the same time. All you have to do is to learn how to balance it. I agree with you that time is really precious. If you learn how to utilize your time, you can do both (being a good manager and great leader).

  18. Thanks for commenting 'youth leadership programs'!
    Any suggestions of how someone that is struggling with this balance improve? What did you do to learn this balance for your role?


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