AAMI News January 2018

Career Center: Are You a Manager, a Leader—or Both?

Manager or Leader?
Leadership involves taking chances and giving others permission to do the same.

The differences between the terms “leader” and “manager” have been pondered and dissected for years. So what exactly is the difference between a manager and a leader?

Characteristics of a Manager

Managers keep their eyes fixed on the details, said Paul Kelley, director of biomedical engineering, the Green Initiative, and asset redeployment at Washington Hospital in Fremont, CA. “They juggle tasks on their way to accomplishing a function,” he said. “They’re standing in the middle of the battlefield, directing people where to go and what to do.”

Overall, management requires setting clear, achievable objectives and respecting the bottom line. “The management process ensures personnel and departments meet their goals, objectives, and standard practices to achieve the mission and vision of the organization,” said F. Mike Busdicker, system director of clinical engineering at Intermountain Healthcare, based in Salt Lake City, UT. “Good managers will consistently track the metrics, benchmarks, and other key performance indicators to ensure that expectations are met and goals are achieved,” he said. “They hold routine meetings and informational sessions, provide detailed information outlining individual performance, and offer opportunities for discussing potential areas fo improvement.”

Managers tend to be more immediately focused on getting things done right now and holding people accountable, said Sue Schade, principal of StarBridge Advisors, a health information technology advisory firm based in Pawtucket, RI.

Hallmarks of Leadership

In general, leaders take a wider view, according to Schade. “A leader sees the bigger picture and scope, looking ahead 10 years, not just to tomorrow or next week,” she said. “That vision is indeed more strategic than tactical and operational.”

The need for vision was echoed by Busdicker. “A person’s ability to lead means looking to the future and positioning their department to make the necessary changes to be successful,” he said.

But along with this vision, “leading is [also] about the values, the persona, and the behavior of that person—the way he or she deals with people,” Schade said. “You hear people say, ‘That person is a natural leader,’ but you don’t often hear them say, ‘They’re a natural manager.’”

Often, leaders are gentle and quiet, yet forceful, according to Kelley. “They really do keep their calm when there is chaos around them.”

It is those intrinsic, often indefinable qualities that many say separate managers from leaders. “Leaders know how to influence others, below them and above them,” said Dan DeMaria, system director of HTM at Saint Luke’s Health System in Kansas City, MO. “They take chances and give permission for others to do the same.”

This article was excerpted from a feature by Stephanie Stephens that was originally published in the November/December 2017 issue of BI&T, www.aami.org/bit.