Today, the most sought-after leaders have a proven track record of agility and adaptability during disruptions. Let’s be clear; this means that you not only need to be agile and adaptable as an individual, or individual contributor, on your own — you also need to be agile and adaptable in the face of disruption as a leader.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted how we work, communicate, shop, and engage in everyday life around the globe. So how do you ensure you are the leader who can lead successfully through disruption?

Before anything else, you need to understand the difference between leaders and managers.

In every organization, both great executive leaders and great managers are needed. Organizations need executive leaders to inspire and lead the organization to achieve its mission and vision. They also need great managers to get things done and ensure their teams are aligned with the organization’s goals.


Here are a few of the major differences between executive leaders and managers:


Executive Leaders Set the Vision and Strategy, Managers Follow It

As an executive leader, you paint a picture of what you see is possible for the company to achieve and set the strategy. You work to inspire and engage your people in turning that vision into a reality. Managers focus on tactics and ensure the day-to-day activities are getting done as they should.


Executive Leaders Look for Opportunities, Managers Look for Outcomes

In your role as an executive leader, you look for opportunities to create better results. You are constantly thinking ahead. Managers are focused on making the changes necessary to create those better results. Their attention is on what is happening now.


Executive Leaders Inspire People, Managers Ensure Their Success

Because executive leaders determine the vision, you are responsible for communicating that vision in a way that inspires others and empowering people so they can make it a reality. You help everyone understand the greater part they play in the organization’s success. Managers, on the other hand, are responsible for how successful and productive their teams are. They focus on setting, measuring, and achieving goals by controlling situations to reach or exceed their objectives.

While executive leaders and managers have these differences, they also have much in common. Both executive leaders and managers measure and track results, care about the wellness of their people and nurture high-performing teams and individuals.

Mapping Priorities to Roles: An Example

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is a top priority for many organizations. How does that map to these roles? Let’s use pay equity as an example:

  • Executive Leadership Vision and Strategy: We want pay equity across the organization for each role. Ensure pay equity when hiring; assess and adjust salaries for current employees.
  • Management Execution and Tactics: Managers are tasked to develop and implement processes to ensure equitable offers when hiring and to develop a plan to fund potential increases in pay for current employees who are known to be underpaid.

As you can see, nothing gets done without the manager role. And, the right thing only gets done with the executive leadership role.

I felt driven to seek out my own training. It took me a long time to learn how to be an effective executive leader. That’s why I help people like you become the leaders that you need to be so you can create the biggest impact you can possibly make.

Now that you understand the differences between executive leaders and managers, take this Leadership Self Assessment to identify the holes in your executive leadership skills. Then you’ll know where to put your efforts in learning how to lead effectively through disruption.

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