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How Executives differ from Leaders and Managers ?
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An organization has need and requirements for various roles to be performed. Often, the same person has to don different hats at the work place. Arguably, the key roles in an organization are that of executives, leaders and managers. This article attempts to clarify how the functions of executives differ from that of leaders and managers.

An executive is a person who is assigned the responsibility of administering a business. An executive is expected to be on top of things, by having data related to his business at fingertips. It is believed that the executive function is more of a left brain intensive function, i.e. a strong association with logic and analytics in the way of doing things. The executive typically is perceived as a cold blooded creature that is capable of cutting the most difficult business deals. Often, in proposals, one finds a section called ‘Executive Summary’; this provides a good illustration of the expectations from an executive – a no-nonsense, business like attitude. In an executive function, the supervisor appears to the subordinate as a person who lays down cold facts without emotions.

A manager’s role is that of control – controlling the resources, expenses and ensuring that the work is done by the right resource at the right cost, on time. A manager’s responsibility towards his team is to :-

a. Remove obstacles that prevent the team in doing their job
b. Ensure the right supply of tools and resources to enable smooth running of operations.

An important job of the manager is to conduct performance reviews of his team members. The manager is expected to get the team on track whenever they stray off the objectives set.

A leader’s role is that which inspires and motivates his team members to work and go the extra mile. A leader, it is said, leads by example. In contrast to an executive, a leader is more of the ‘right side of the brain’ function. A leader should know the pulse of his team, act as a coach to them and show them the bigger picture for which the team is working.

In an organization, often the same person is called to play all the three roles. For instance, the chief executive officer is a hard-core executive when he communicates to his team the financial objectives; as a manager, he is involved completely in the organization, controlling the expenditure, and ensuring the revenue flow from sales; as a leader, sets the vision for the company and motivates and drives the team to achieve the vision. Some examples of one single person playing all the roles very successfully are that of Jack Welch of GE and Vivek Paul of Wipro.

For an organization it is extremely important that its staff at various management levels is trained to perform all the three roles in an efficient manner. The difference in the roles is well expressed in the one sentence: The executive sets the hard objectives to achieve, the manager sets the goals and the leader gives the vision.

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