There is often confusion between the roles of a manager and that of a leader, but there are fundamental differences.

Leaders seek to influence, motivate, and empower others towards a common goal and towards the effectiveness and success of the organisations they lead.  They look for opportunities and generally achieve success through a positive and active personal attitude.  They look to inspire others through their own energy and vision.

Managers, on the other hand, direct and control a group of people or entities for the purpose of coordinating and harmonising that group towards accomplishing a goal.  They need to focus on the multitude of day-to-day challenges that arise, including possible conflicts and other personnel issues.  They need to concentrate on necessities rather than on their own vision.

Peter Drucker put it in simple terms, explaining that “leadership is doing the right things; management is doing things right”.

There is some excellent research available on this topic, and one of the most straightforward and easy to read commentaries is one written back in 2007 under the title “Leaders and Managers: Are they different?” by Abraham Zaleznik, the Konosuke Matsushita Emeritus Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School in Boston.

“The difference between managers and leaders”, he wrote, “lies in the conceptions they hold, deep in their psyches, of chaos and order. Managers embrace process, seek stability and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly—sometimes before they fully understand a problem’s significance. Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure in order to understand the issues more fully”. “In this way”, Zaleznik argued, “business leaders have much more in common with artists, scientists, and other creative thinkers than they do with managers. Organisations need both managers and leaders to succeed, but developing both requires a reduced focus on logic and strategic exercises in favour of an environment where creativity and imagination are permitted to flourish”.

His comments are just as valid today as they were in his original paper, written in 1977, although there has been significant development in our understanding of how behaviour impacts on the effectiveness of leaders and managers in the last 46 years.

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What are the different Leadership and Management Styles?

The overriding principle that is important to understand is that anyone can do anything providing they receive effective training.  However, it is just as important to understand that if an individual is placed in a situation where the requirements of a role do not fit his or her natural behavioural style, then there will almost certainly be consequences, certainly dissatisfaction and even an emotional reaction such as stress, pressure, maybe even boredom or uncertainty of role.  (Extended DISC® Behavioural Reports identify a range of emotional issues that provide managers/leaders with this vital information in such situations).

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, wrote an article titled “Leadership That Gets Results” in the March 2000 issue of the Harvard Business Review. In this article, he suggests that the most effective executives use a collection of distinct leadership and management styles, each based on the elements of emotional intelligence and each having a different impact on the organisation’s climate and performance. He goes on to outline six leadership styles: coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and coaching. He compares leadership styles to the array of golf clubs in the golf player’s bag and advises leaders to pick and choose styles depending on the business situation.

DISC programs generally recognise four different styles, but Extended DISC® goes much deeper, recognising and reporting on 160 different behavioural styles.  For this reason, Extended DISC® Behavioural Reports give a much more precise assessment of an individual’s natural behavioural style, and this is reflected in their Lead and Manage Development Assessment.

For ease of understanding, Extended DISC® summarises leadership and management styles under four headings but drills deeper into the individual’s behaviour recognising 40 different styles under each quadrant.  The reports also recognise that an individual frequently exhibits more than one of the four basic styles in their duties.  Recent Validation Studies have found that less than 0.5% of individuals record behaviour that is 100% of any one of the four main styles.   Broadly however, the four styles of management and four styles of leadership are:

  • Authoritative
  • Informal
  • Supporting
  • Quality

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Why do leadership and management styles matter?

According to research from Gallup, 50% of employees leave their companies because of their boss.  A Gallup study of 7,272 US adults revealed that one in two had left their job to get away from their manager, to improve their overall life at some point in their career and concluded that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement.

Gallup explains that when you have a difficult manager, it creates a compounding effect that’s really damaging. Employees are miserable at work, that misery follows them home, making them even more stressed and spreading that negativity to their families. The survey found that workers feel like they’re given little guidance in terms of understanding what’s expected of them.

Considering how much turnover costs companies, this is an important statistic to understand.

And, the study Leadership That Gets Results, mentioned above, reviewed and analysed more than 3,000 middle-level managers to find out specific leadership behaviours and their effect on profitability. The results revealed that a manager’s leadership style was responsible for 30% of the company’s bottom-line profitability.

Clearly, the importance of effective communication between executives and team members is crucial.


So, how do we solve this challenge?

Virtually all experts agree that communication is the key, and communications need to be constant and consistent.  Managers and leaders need to be approachable, and they need to set clear expectations and goals.

To increase the effectiveness of the communication process, HR Profiling Solutions recommend the following steps:

  1. Arrange for the leader and/or manager to complete an Extended DISC® Lead and Manage Development Assessment to provide exceptional insights into the manager’s or leader’s management style and to discover both how their style impacts the team and how they can communicate more effectively.
  2.  Obtain an Extended DISC® Behavioural Report on each team member, to understand their natural behavioural style. More specifically tailor the reports to focus on communication issues and how they are likely to react to their supervisor’s behavioural style.
  3. Obtain an Extended DISC® Team and Build Assessment, combining the results of all team members’ reports (including the manager/leader) to identify gaps or evaluate management expectations that might not align with the team’s make-up.

The Extended DISC® Lead and Manage Development Assessment provides managers and leaders with vital information to improve their effectiveness.

Most importantly however, an understanding of the manager’s/leader’s management style and their ability to be flexible, based on team members’ styles and changing circumstances, will result in:

  • An improvement in communication and teamwork,
  • An increase in employee engagement,
  • And an improvement in team effectiveness.

Three key factors in obtaining an overall improvement in organisational performance.


About the author: Clyde Colson is a director and one of the founders of HR Profiling Solutions Limited (initially incorporated as Extended DISC® Australasia Limited in 1999) and has been actively involved in training throughout Australasia and consulting in the Extended DISC® system for over 25 years