Coaching Today

Manager or Leader?

By Bruce Brown

Whether it is a teacher in a classroom, a principal in a school, a coach of an athletic team, an athletic director and his or her department or in a business environment, managing and leading are not the same. 

Managers tend to accept the organization as it has always existed. Status quo is repeated and preserved. Leaders are builders – vision and imagination are two of their strengths. They are initiators, influencers and change agents constantly re-examining the status quo. They look for ways to revise or improve the way things are done and challenge all existing routines that are not great. Leaders are uncomfortable with being comfortable. 

Managers hope things go well. They fill a position, control and administer. They keep a tight grip on the little control they have. Leaders are innovative, intentional and empowering.

Managers are capable of maintaining and sustaining the existing culture and direction but not capable of creating change. Leaders can create a culture where none has existed – they can change and improve an existing culture. If you want to see if someone is a leader, ask them to lead other people in making positive changes. 

The best a manager can hope for is compliance. People will not follow them beyond their “positional power.” Leaders inspire commitment because they have a clear vision of the finished product. They can clearly communicate and share the vision, create energy, weed out the uncommitted, anticipate problems, develop trust, teach and empower people to lead, change cultures, and build a great team. Leaders are followed. 

Managers do what is required. They take over when tasks are easy. They excuse themselves from making a difference and accept things as they are by saying, “this is the way it has always been” or “that is not my job.” If they try to fix a difficult problem and don’t get immediate results, they allow things to return to the pre-existing state and then say, “see, nothing works.”  Leaders are energized by challenges. Leaders know that nothing works unless you do. 

We are extremely thankful to have worked with so many true leaders in the last 15 years. We have seen so many instances where one leader can have a huge ripple effect. One leader of character can improve a team – one team of character can influence the school – one school of character can impact an entire community. 


About the Author: Bruce Brown was a teacher, coach and athletic administrator at the Junior high, high school, junior college and collegiate levels for 35 years and is currently director of Proactive Coaching in Camano Island, Washington. He is a former presenter for the NAIA’s Champions of Character program and has spoken at the National Athletic Directors Conference on several occasions. He has conducted numerous clinics throughout the United States and has spoken at several NCAA meetings and workshops.



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