Diversity in Approach of Managers and Leaders

This post continues the thought process of leading in times where diverse characteristics are abundant and clearly identified in a group of people.

Although both a leader and a manager can make decisions, a leader is one whose decisions effect the entire organization (Eberlin & Tatum, 2008). The reaction and response to a follower might differ if the person is considered a manager or a leader.

A leader’s traits, behaviors, cultural backgrounds and situational factors can influence a leader’s effectiveness where diversity is present (Bueno, Antolin, & Tubbs, 2004; Sanchez-Runde, Nardon, & Steers, 2011). Comparing and contrasting managers and leaders show how diversity within a team can elicit different reactions from a manager or a leader (DiPietro, Severt, Welsh, & Raven, 2008; Kearney & Gebert, 2009; Ospina & Foldy, 2009; Zacher, Rosing, & Frese, 2010). If the people following a leader are different in their culture, race, religion, or other characteristics from the leader, the leader may have a different response (Begeç, 2013; Crossman & Crossman, 2011; Kearney & Gebert, 2009; Morrison, 1992; Ragins, 1997; Waters, 1992). Leaders characteristics can affect how they lead in diverse contexts and how they think about diverse followers.

Defining diversity is hard (Adelman, 1997; Levine, 1991) because experts do not agree on a definition. By looking at the different definitions of scholars, I offer a definition used for this paper. During the first part of this paper, a review of characteristics, cultural backgrounds, and situational factors describes the leader’s role in addressing diversity. Following this, a section identifies the differences between a leader and a manager. Understanding a leader’s vantage point over a manager can elevate the a review of leading in diverse contexts and the effect on followers. Leading in diverse contexts can affect leadership development as well. Diversity can affect leadership.

Managers Versus Leaders

A manager is defined by Eberlin and Tatum (2008) as a person who oversees a department. Kotter (1995) notes that leaders take into account the needs of the entire organization and looks for the need for change. Managers are focused on keeping the day-to-day systems running smoothly.

In contrast, a leader is one who is more concerned with the whole organization and less with the day-to-day tasks (Teo-Dixon & Monin, 2007). DiPietro et al. (2008) defined a leader as someone who saw change, demanded research and development, and were long-term strategic thinkers (DiPietro et al., 2008). Begeç (2013) says the goal of the leader is to help a team come together to be successful. Leaders may be assisted by recognizing how diversity can bring forth a better decision. The leader’s responsibility becomes working through difficulties and helping followers do the same with successful outcomes (DiPietro et al., 2008). In other words, a leader encourages others to a brighter future, while a manager makes sure that vision is implemented.

If a person starts to exhibit qualities that distinguishes them from others, who sets a vision and elevates themselves to hold a higher standard for everyone regardless of diversity within the team, the person displays leadership qualities (Teo-Dixon & Morin, 2007). For example, Zacher, Rosing, and Frese (2010) studied how a person might help a younger person develop. Leaders behaved in a way to influence their graduate researcher for the better (Zacher et al., 2010). Those who did not believe in leaving a legacy were generally passive-avoidant (Zacher et al., 2010). In this study, a leader possessed a quality to inspire by remembering his or her own legacy (Zacher et al., 2010). The behaviors of a leader have potential to influence another person.

In teams where diversity is present, the ability to influence others could be helpful. For leaders who want to leave an impact on the organization or the team, distinguishing themselves as a leader by influencing those around them has potential to bring a culture of inclusion. Managers who limited themselves to the task at hand did not think about the legacy they wished to leave behind and had more transactional interactions (Zacher et al., 2010). The manager can become task-focused and less interested in the transformation of another person. A follower may not apply their skills or talent, and instead would do the bare minimum of work (Holt, Markova, Dhaenens, Marler, & Heilmann, 2016) without a leader who sees the need to leave a legacy in another person. The personal involvement of a leader as opposed to a hierarchical relationship with a manager seems to be what leads to higher quality relationships between a leader and a follower (Zacher et al., 2010). Leaders being more legacy-minded and more empowering exemplifies the difference between a manager and a leader.

Leaders aware of the need for diversity efforts within an organization may lead differently than a manager. By being conscious of others and what makes them different, leaders can help create potential for inclusion. Diversity recognition starts with the leader (Begeç, 2013; Gilbert et al., 1999; Morrison, 1992) but can be amplified by including others by training staff on how to tolerate diversity. Managers, caught in the day to day operations, may miss chances to change the organization and implement visions that become a catalyst for including diverse people (Kotter, 1995). Managers might be restricted by time and other resources to impart a legacy into others (Zacher et al., 2010). Meanwhile, leaders tend to include a multitude of others to make diversity acceptable. Leaders, and how they lead in diverse contexts, is described in detail below.


By understanding their own characteristics, cultural background, and the situation, a leader can raise a team that is ready to be successful. Leaders can promote diversity as a key element to any team success because the diversity creates new thoughts and solutions to complex issues. A leader must know and understand followers and the follower’s diversity. Likewise, followers and their diversity should be recognized as an enhancer to teams. Although diversity can exclude others, leaders can use diversity as an opportunity to include everyone.


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© 2020, Mollie Bond

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