Who is more important? – Leaders or Managers?

Friday, 6 July 2017


When general audience are talking about leaders and managers often they use that words synonymously (Ratcliffe, 2013). After analysing the skills of those two roles from different sources, I can finally highlight the diversity between leadership and management and give a clear answer that who is more important in the sport organizations.

Manager vs Leaders

By definition, managers is a trustworthy in working with the assets of the organization. They are dedicated to the organizational success and they emphasizes rationality and control. They are analytical and recognize patterns. Their management style is transactional, they have subordinates and their power is a formal authority. Managers are subordinate too. They are problem solver and risk-averse and they will try to avoid conflict where possible. (Zotos, 2008) (Changingminds.org, 2002) (Zaleznik 2004).

Billy Beane (kitmanlabs.com)Billy Beane (kitmanlabs.com)

A great manager is Billy Beane portrayed by Brad Pitt in the movie Moneyball. He decided to minimize the expenditure and save money to the organization. He was using a scientific approach to evaluate potential and capabilities of the players with the support of statistical analysis; small teams can compete with the big clubs by buying assets that are undervalued by other teams and selling ones that are overvalued by other organizations. Those are merely managerial decisions.

By definition leaders demonstrate integrity and exercise self-denial for the good of the organization. They are dedicated to the well-being of all stakeholders and completely service oriented. They have a transformational style, they develop new approaches to problems and create issues to new opportunity. Leaders even if they are working for the organizations they never belong to them. Their sense of who they are does not depend on position in the work place as indicator of their identity. Leaders have the ability to engage and attract followers with their charismatic style and it does not require a loud personality. They are good with people but in order to keep the leadership, they often retain a degree of separation and aloofness. Their quiet styles that giving credit to others are very effective at creating the loyalty that great leaders engender. (Zotos, 2008) (Haslam and Reicher, 2016) (Zaleznik 2004) (Changingminds.org, 2002).

Carlo Ancelotti (Getty Photo)

Carlo Ancelotti one of the most successful football manager is an expert practitioner in leading talented players and he is the best person to explain the quiet approach to leadership. It is might sound soft and weak but Mr. Ancelotti is highlighting that the quiet leadership is a strength. There is authority being calm and measured, in building trust and making decision in a composed manner, in using influence and encouragement and in being professional in the approach. The power should be implicit, their authority must result from respect and trust than fear. (Ancelotti, Brady, Forde, 2016). Leaders are risk-seeking when they pursuing their vision, they are comfortable with problems and will see ways that others avoid as potential opportunities. (Changingminds.org, 2002).

Ranieri in the light put Mourinho in the shade (Skysport 2016)

The antagonism between Jose Mourinho vs Claudio Ranieri can explain better what leadership means. Mr. Mourinho is the ‘Special One’, Mr. Ranieri is ‘the One who makes Leicester City Special’. Mourinho’s failure follow a path from ‘WE’ to ‘I’. It is a route that lost the support from his followers both players, supporters and the owner. In total contrast Ranieri follow the course from ‘I’ to ‘We’. Claudio by the time arrived at the Foxes had learned the hard way to become a leader from his previous managerial failures. His redemption born when he understand that no longer was his coaching a subject matter of imposing his personal views on the team; rather it was a matter of helping the team discover their collective will (Haslam and Reicher, 2016): ‘When I spoke with the players I realized that they were afraid of the Italian tactics… So I told the players that I trusted them and would speak very little of tactics… They need to be relaxed and not harassed…’ (Percy, 2016). That is one of the reasons that have driven his players to success. It underlies their joint talent to make history (Haslam and Reicher, 2016).

The framework below highlight and give the awareness of differences between being a leader and being a manager.

Subject Leader Manager
Essence Change Stability
Focus Leading people Managing work
Have Followers Subordinates
Horizon Long-term Short-term
Seeks Vision Objectives
Approach Sets direction  Plans detail
Decision Facilitates Makes
Power Personal charisma Formal authority
Appeal to Heart Head
Energy Passion Control
Culture Shapes Enacts
Dynamic Proactive Reactive
Persuasion Sell Tell
Style Transformational Transactional
Exchange Excitement for work Money for work
Likes Striving Action
Wants Achievement Results
Risk Takes Minimizes
Rules Breaks Makes
Conflict Uses Avoids
Direction New roads Existing roads
Truth Seeks Establishes
Concern What is right Being right
Credit Gives Takes
Blame Takes Blames


Keep in mind that a single person can be a leader and simultaneously a manager too. In many sport organization leaders do have subordinates but only because they are also managers. Also managers can be leaders and tend to have followers too (changingminds.org, 2002). All three football managers I mentioned above they have both roles in their club with some differences. Some is more leader than other but all of them are winners.


We can’t say one role is more important than other. Sport organizations need both managers and leaders to succeed and reach their own goals. They both are playing an integral role in the operation of the sport business (Zeleznik, 2004). If a sport institution is running effectively, managers and leaders will work in tandem (Ratcliffe, 2013). Leadership and management need to be collaborative between them and with the organizations. Sport businesses must have a balance between management and leadership depends on the environment in which they operates. If the situation is not changing and the club is stable, the management is essential but at the time of crisis and organizational transformation, leaders has never be more essential. (Ratcliffe, 2013).

In conclusion we can summarize all above descriptions and informations with the follow religious symbol ‘Yin and Yang’. This image describe perfectly how two different roles as Manager and Leader, can actually be compatible and interdependent in the sport business and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.


(Paul Recchia Photo)
Any sport organization to be a successful must have managers with some leadership skills and leaders with some management skills.


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