Common Terms, Levels and Roles in Management

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    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

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    Common Roles in Management

    Corresponding Types of Development

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    Library’s Leadership

    Board of Directors (Governance)

    (NOTE: Many experts would assert that the focus of a Board in a corporation
    is on governance and not on management. They would clarify that the Board determines
    the overall purpose and strategic priorities, and the management implements

    A board is a group of people who are legally charged to govern an organization
    (usually a corporation) — thus, they are “governing boards.” The
    board is responsible for setting strategic direction, establishing broad policies
    and objectives, and hiring and evaluating the chief executive officer. The chief
    executive officer reports to the board and is responsible for carrying out the
    board’s strategic policies. The nature of a board can vary widely in nature.
    Some boards act like “policy boards”, that is, they take a strong
    policy-making role, and expect the chief executive to operate the organization
    according to those policies. Some boards, despite their being legally responsible
    for the activities of the corporation, follow all of the directions and guidance
    of the chief executive (in this case, board members arguably are not meeting
    their responsibilities as a board). Still, other boards take a strong “working
    board”, or hands-on role, including micro-managing the chief executive
    and organization. For more information, see Boards
    of Directors

    What is Management?

    Traditional Interpretation

    There are a variety of views about this term. Traditionally, the term “management”
    refers to the activities (and often the group of people) involved in the four
    general functions listed below. (Note that the four functions recur throughout
    the organization and are highly integrated):

    1) Planning,
    including identifying goals, objectives, methods, resources needed to carry
    out methods, responsibilities, and dates for completion of tasks. Examples of
    planning are strategic planning, business planning, project planning, staffing
    planning, advertising and promotions planning, etc. (See Planning
    (many kinds)

    2) Organizing resources
    to achieve the goals in an optimum fashion. Examples are organizing new departments,
    human resources, office and file systems, re-organizing businesses, etc. (See
    (many kinds)

    3) Leading,
    including setting direction for the organization, groups, and individuals and
    also influencing people to follow that direction. Examples are establishing strategic
    direction (vision, values, mission, and/or goals) and championing methods of
    organizational performance management to pursue that direction. (See All
    About Leadership

    4) Controlling, or coordinating,
    the organization’s systems, processes and structures to reach effectively and
    efficiently reach goals and objectives. This includes ongoing collection of
    feedback, and monitoring and adjustment of systems, processes, and structures
    accordingly. Examples include the use of financial controls, policies, and procedures,
    performance management processes, measures to avoid risks, etc. (See Coordinating

    Another common view is that “management” is getting things done through
    others. Yet another view, quite apart from the traditional view, asserts that
    the job of management is to support employees’ efforts to be fully productive
    members of the organizations and citizens of the community.

    To most employees, the term “management” probably means the group
    of people (executives and other managers) who are primarily responsible for
    making decisions in the organization. In a nonprofit, the term “management”
    might refer to all or any of the activities of the board, executive director
    and/or program directors.

    Read the rest of the overall topic of Management
    to understand more about management.

    Another Interpretation

    Some writers, teachers, and practitioners assert that the above view is rather
    outmoded and that management needs to focus more on leadership skills, e.g.,
    establishing vision and goals, communicating the vision and goals, and guiding
    others to accomplish them. They also assert that leadership must be more facilitative,
    participative, and empowering in how visions and goals are established and carried
    out. Some people assert that this really isn’t a change in the management functions,
    rather it’s re-emphasizing certain aspects of management. For more information,
    see New
    Paradigm in Management.


    Usually, this term generally applies to those people or specific positions
    in top levels of management, e.g., chief executive officers, chief operating
    officers, chief financial officers, vice presidents, general managers of large
    organizations, etc. In large organizations, executives often have different
    forms of compensation or pay, e.g., they receive portions of the company’s stock,
    receive executive-level “perks, etc. Chief executives usually pay strong
    attention to strategic plans and organizational performance, whether measured
    financially or from the impact of services to a community. Many people think of
    the Chief Executive Officer as heading up large, for-profit corporations. This
    is not entirely true. The majority of businesses in the United States are small
    businesses, whether for-profit or nonprofit. Their top executives could be called
    Chief Executive Officers. For more information, see Chief
    Executive Role.


    A classic definition is that “Leaders do the right thing
    and managers do things right.” A more standard definition
    is usually something like “managers work toward the organization’s
    goals using its resources in an effective and efficient manner.”
    In a traditional sense, large organizations may have different
    levels of managers, including top managers, middle managers, and
    first-line managers. Top (or executive) managers are responsible
    for overseeing the whole organization and typically engage in
    more strategic and conceptual matters, with less attention to
    day-to-day detail. Top managers have middle managers working for
    them and who are in charge of a major function or department.
    Middle managers may have first-line managers working
    for them and who are responsible to manage the day-to-day activities
    of a group of workers.

    Note that you can also have different types of managers across the same levels
    in the organization. A project manager is in charge of developing a certain
    project, e.g., the development of a new building. (See Project
    ) A functional manager is in charge of a major function,
    such as a department in the organization, e.g., marketing, sales, engineering,
    finance, etc. (For example, see Program
    ) A product manager is in charge of a product or service.
    Similarly, a product line manager is in charge of a group of closely
    related products. (See Product/Service
    .) General managers are in charge of numerous functions
    within an organization or department.


    Very simply put, a leader is interpreted as someone who sets the direction in an
    effort and influences people to follow that direction. They set direction by
    developing a clear vision and mission and conducting planning that determines
    the goals needed to achieve the vision and mission. They motivate by using a
    variety of methods, including facilitation, coaching, mentoring, directing,
    delegating, etc. As noted above, one of the four key functions of management
    is leading (along with planning, organizing, and controlling). Leaders carry
    out their roles in a wide variety of styles, e.g., autocratic, democratic, participatory,
    laissez-faire (hands-off), etc. Often, the leadership style depends on the situation,
    including the life cycle, culture, and strategic priorities of the organization.
    There are many views about what characteristics and traits that leaders should
    have. There are also numerous theories about leadership, or about carrying out
    the role of leader, e.g., servant leader, democratic leader, principle-centered
    leader, group-man theory, great-man theory, traits theory, visionary leader,
    total leader, situational leader, etc. See
    All About Leadership

    “Leading versus Managing”?

    (Whatever the title, the person in the top-level position in the organization
    is (or at least should be) responsible for setting (or, in the case of corporations,
    pursuing) the overall direction of the organization. Consequently (and unfortunately?),
    the “executive” level of management is often referred to as the “leadership”
    of the organization.)

    With the recent focus on the need for transformational leadership to guide organizations
    through successful change, the term “leadership” has also been used
    to refer to those who embrace change and lead the change of organizations for
    the betterment of all stakeholders. Some people believe that leadership occurs
    only at the top levels of organizations and managing occurs in the levels farther
    down the organization. Some people believe that leadership occurs (or should
    occur) throughout the organization, but still use the term “leadership”
    mostly to refer to the top positions in the organization. Others believe that
    managing and leading occur at many levels of the organization. For more information,
    Leading Different than Managing? (pros and cons of this debate)

    (This term is commonly misapplied when people use the term mostly to refer
    to the top levels in an organization. The term has — and should have — much
    broader usage. Anyone at any level in an organization can show leadership; thus,
    almost anyone can be a leader in the organization.)


    (This is a widely misunderstood term. Many people believe it
    applies only to people who oversee the productivity and development
    of entry-level workers. That’s not true.) The term “supervisor”
    typically refers to one’s immediate superior in the workplace,
    that is, the person whom you report directly to in the organization.
    For example, a middle manager’s supervisor typically would
    be a top manager. A first-line manager’s supervisor would
    be a middle manager. A worker’s supervisor typically would
    be a first-line manager.

    Supervisors typically are responsible for their direct reports
    progress and productivity in the organization. Supervision often
    includes conducting basic management skills (decision-making,
    problem-solving, planning, delegation, and meeting management),
    organizing teams, noticing the need for and designing new job
    roles in the group, hiring new employees, training new employees,
    employee performance management (setting goals, observing and
    giving feedback, addressing performance issues, firing employees,
    etc.) and ensuring conformance to personnel policies and other
    internal regulations.

    Supervisors typically have a strong working knowledge of the activities in their
    group, e.g., how to develop their product, carry out their service, etc. Many
    also use the term “supervisor” to designate the managerial position
    that is responsible for a major function in the organization, for example, Supervisor
    of Customer Service. For more information, see Basic
    Overview of Supervision

    Supervision is a leadership role especially when leading in the domain of leading
    other individuals and groups.

    Work Directors

    Work directors directly oversee the work of their subordinates. They carry
    out their oversight role by specifically assigning work and then closely monitoring
    to ensure the work is carried out according to their wishes. Often, people work
    their way up through management levels by starting out as work directors. Over
    time, they develop skills in delegation, which frees them up from having to
    closely monitor the work of their subordinates and, instead, to attend to more
    high-level managerial activities. Work directors are not always at lower levels
    of the organization. For example, a middle- or upper-level manager who has poorly
    developed delegation skills might still be interpreted as work directing her
    or his subordinates.

    Boards of Directors / Governance Development

    Board / Governance development refers to the activities involved
    in enhancing the skills of the corporation’s board members to effectively
    fill their role in governing the corporation. Board development
    typically includes helping board members to understand their role
    of boards, build skills in recruiting and training board members,
    carry out effective board meetings, make policy decisions about
    strategic goals and finances, evaluate the board and chief executive
    officer, etc. For more information, see Boards
    of Directors

    Management Development

    Usually, this term refers to the activities involved in enhancing
    leaders’, managers’, and supervisor’s abilities to plan, organize,
    lead and control the organization and its members. Consequently,
    many view the term “management development” to include
    executive development (developing executives), leadership development
    (developing leaders), managerial development (developing managers)
    and supervisor development (developing supervisors). For more
    information, see Management

    As mentioned above, there are people who assert a strong difference
    between “leading” and “managing”. These people
    often refer to leadership development (developing skills in leadership)
    as apart from management (and managerial) development (developing
    skills in planning, organizing, and controlling). See Leading
    Versus Managing (pros and cons of the debate)

    Executive Development

    (Today’s organizations are changing dramatically. Successful
    change requires strong leadership from top positions in the organizations.
    Therefore, writers often interchange the use of the phrases “leadership
    development” with “executive development”. They
    are not the same. As noted above, this is handy, but it can cause
    substantial confusion.)

    Executive development refers to the activities involved in
    enhancing one’s ability to carry out top-level roles in the organization.
    Some key skills for executives to have to include understanding the
    external environment of the organization, leadership, strategic
    planning, financial forecasting and analysis, organizing, program
    planning, and human resource management, etc. For more information,
    see Chief
    Executive Role.

    Managerial Development

    This term is not frequently used. When it is, it is usually meant in the same
    regard as management development.

    Supervisorial Development

    Supervisorial development refers to the activities involved
    in enhancing one’s ability to oversee, guide and evaluate activities
    of immediate subordinates in the organization. Supervisor development
    often includes learning basic skills in employee performance management,
    managing meetings, project management, etc. Good supervisory development
    should also include developing skills in time and stress management
    — the role of the supervisor is often quite stressful to those who
    are first getting used to the hectic activities of management.
    For more information, see Supervisor

    Leadership Development

    Leadership development refers to the activities involved in
    enhancing one’s ability to establish vision and goals, and motivate
    and guide others to achieve the vision and goals. Leadership development
    is critical at almost any level in the organization —
    not just at the executive level. For more information, see Leadership

    Additional Online Readings

    Guidelines to Carefully Examine Literature (and Avoid Confusion)
    About Leadership

    to Understanding Literature About Leadership

    Definitions Management, Managing …

    What is Management? Definitions
    Management Definitions by Great Management Scholars
    Management Dictionary, Glossary, and Terms directory

    Leading Versus Managing

    Leadership Theories
    Management Styles
    Difference Between Leading and Managing
    or Manager? These 10 Important Distinctions Can Help You Out

    For the Category of Management:

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