Are you a manager or a leader?

On Tuesdays evening I attend the Leadership in Project Management at Ryerson, as part of my Project Management certificate.

This post is not in any way an endorsement to this program, I am just sharing a bit of what we’re doing as I find it related to my blog and think other people will be interested in reading this.

I have to say that since I’ve started the Ryerson courses many of my questions related to management have been answered. For example ‘How can I explain the leadership style of my managers?’ or ‘What is my manager’s communication style’ or ‘Can I be a manager?’ or ‘Am I a leader?’ – lots and lots of questions. In the process, these courses are shaping my perspective on management.

Photo credits: D’Arcy Norman on

So the class starts and the instructor divides us in two groups – one that believes that managers make a project successful and another that believes leaders make the project successful. Then he tells each group to prepare the arguments with examples on why we think so. Each group would then choose one presenter for the debate.

Fifteen minutes later the groups presented their arguments. Many ideas were presented but these were the best (of course all these are arguable, depends on which side you’re on):

Leaders have a holistic view of the project while managers focus on specific phase/deliverable. Leaders have a vision. Have you ever seen a manager who has a vision? I haven’t. I can even count on my fingers the managers who can ‘see’ the end state of the project, let alone having the vision.

Leaders are focused on people, they develop the individual’s potential – which develops self-sustained teams as opposed to highly dependent teams.  You can see every day how managers are task- and not people-oriented when instead of taking time to explain things, to help you develop the skills and coach you throughout the project, only tell you what to do. Directive style does not develop the individual. Besides, it is very bossy.

Leaders allow change to happen in a dynamic way, promote changes, do not do things ‘by the book’. Managers do not change policies in place, just follow them.  ‘We have to follow the process’ is a sentence that I promised to take out of my vocabulary.

Leaders do not box people into certain positions and challenge the way things are done. Managers may not always challenge the way things are done and may not be innovative. How many times did you hear ‘But we’ve always done it like that!’ Sorry, but that does not mean how you are doing things it’s OK.

The course is selling us to be leaders of course, one reason being that leadership is beyond management.

A leader can manage but a manager may not necessarily be a leader.

At the end of the class we came up with a list of qualities of people whom we met during our lifetime and we think of as leaders. It’s pretty interesting to see what other people think and what it matters for them. About this and others in another post.

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