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  • Writer's pictureDaniloTambone

Why being a Leader, not a Manager, can save your Life

I was recently talking to a dear friend of mine, who is leading a strategic division in one of the largest global discount supermarket chains here in Italy.

We were discussing about how important it is today, in a world that has changed so fast in just the last few months, to stay dynamic and adaptive, and at the same time to remain grounded to provide continuity to business and customers, and how key it is to have people aligned to a common Vision.

I was reading a magazine whose target audience is middle and top managers, and I was noticing that only one article mentioned "Being Leaders". All the rest of the magazine showcased the term "Managers" only.

And an important distinction came to mind.

"Managers" manage.

"Leaders" lead.

Managers manage.

This is what they do, and they "are" their job title.

If they lose their job, if something or someone takes that title away, they lose what they feel is their identity (and I've been one of them, when I was a "Project" Manager).

Leaders lead.

Even in case they lose their job, they reinvent themselves and continue leading, because leaders is what they are - inside - and nobody can take that away.

Being aware of this distinction alone can save your life, professionally and personally.

I've been there, and I had to learn it the hard way.

We expect things to be out of control for some time, and making clear where you are right now can shortcut your way out.

Shall we dig deeper? I'm glad you asked.


Managers manage.

They "manage" resources.

They feel they have "control" over other people, and if something (a redundancy, an organizational change) takes those resources away, they feel lost and out of control.

Leaders lead.

They lead themselves, their teams, and their companies, and people follow them and feel inspired by their Vision.

They don't need "control", they are sustained by the people that they themselves nurture.


Managers know they are expected (by their companies and teams alike) to find and provide solutions, to take responsibility about them, and to make sure their resources act upon them.

Not that easy when everything around is changing and two eyes are never enough.

Leaders are aware that, when navigating uncertainty, answers are not easily available, often because even the questions are hard to formulate.

They lead by example and summon the bottom-up intelligence of their people.

They support their teams on making the best possible solution emerge, and finally put their face on it.

When things go well, they credit their teams for the results.

When results are lesser than expected, they take responsibility and ask themselves how they could lead better next time.

And people feel it.


Managers create and sustain hierarchies and exercise control.

Much harder for bottom-up intelligence to show up. No one wants to be a scapegoat. Better just obeying without questioning.

Leaders create connections and nurture leaders.

They are aware of the stages of team development.

They know when there's a need to be directive and when to let loose an already high-performing team.

They support the people who were entrusted to them (not "their resources") to become the best version of themselves.


Managers believe they are paid to act as superheroes, even when they do not believe they are one.

They feel they have the world upon their shoulders.

They strive to be strong, but are often fragile inside, and they easily discover it through breakdowns, when it's too late.

Leaders are guided by their Inner Mission and Vision.

They strive to make their teams and organizations antifragile - that is, not only surviving in uncertainty, but becoming even better thanks to it.

They don't feel alone - they feel supported by something which is larger than themselves.

They feel the urgency to share it with people around them for a common good.

They know it's not about them.


Oh, and being a "Leader" has nothing to do with your job title.

It can definitely still be "Manager".

But you can also lead or "co-lead" within your team, for your area of competence, in collaboration with the other teammates, leaders in their own areas.

You can lead at home.

You can lead in your Community.

Everything starts from Being of Service.

It's what in Scrum is called "Servant Leadership".

Asking ourselves:

How can I be of service to my Team today?

To my Organization?

To my Customer(s)?

To my Community?

To my People?

And being willing to listen for the answers to come up, and to take action upon them.


And now, here's to you:

Where are you feeling right now? In the Manager’s or in the Leader’s seat?

What's the most important insight you got from this post?

What's the next tiny step you can take at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning to act upon that insight?



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