What Is a Managing Director: Leader vs Manager

Mike Meldrum presented an interesting session on Leadership to the MD2MD Managing Directors’ group once. It certainly got me thinking – What is a Managing Director? Should the Managing Director of a growing business be a manager or a leader?

My conclusion was both… but that too many get dragged (by the pressures of day to day life) into doing too much management and too little leadership.  But that’s just my view.  What do you think?

If you need some food for thought on the topic, Mike has kindly agreed I can share with my readers his summary of the differences between Leadership and Management as follows:

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And here are Mike’s thoughts on what Managers and Leaders actually do:


  • Ask strategic questions
  • Generate answers to those questions (involve others / make choices)
  • Initiate organizational changes to realise the strategy
  • Work through relationships and inspiring others


  • Solve operational problems
  • Generate detailed plans to achieve operational stability (staffing / budgeting)
  • Maintain systems and control mechanisms
  • Work through hierarchies and formal authority

Leaders: Create things Change things Find resources Get the mission defined Shake things up Set the direction and tone Use imagination Interact with outsiders, inspire people Are responsible for overall outcome Create mandates, take risks Use influence, convince, show direction Monitor outside the culture.

Managers: Control things Keep track of things Budget, make ends meet Plan and organise Solve problems Cope with complexity Use rules and systems Interact internally, keep people in line Are responsible for performance levels Create structures, risk averse Use authority, power, give direction Monitor organisational culture.

Written by Bob Bradley, founder of MD2MD.