Don’t Confuse Your Role

Your Rank Doesn't Determine Your Role

Ask any patient leaving a hospital who was most instrumental in helping them heal and recover, and they’ll likely tell you it was the nurses.

Medical doctors are undoubtedly influential in the recovery of a sick or injured person. They diagnose the problem, determine the course of treatment needed, and write orders for the nursing staff and other medical professionals to execute. Doctors conduct lifesaving surgical procedures, but the nurses provide the follow-up care that makes the surgery successful. Doctors do the upfront work of leadership, and the nurses execute the vision of the doctors by implementing the treatment plan. Somewhere in that mix a charge nurse or other management figure ensures the quality of the work by providing oversight and guidance.

Does that mean that nurses aren’t leaders and doctors aren’t workers? Of course not. The role of leader and worker is not dependent on the title or positional authority one maintains in an organization. Let’s explore the roles of leader, manager, and worker for a moment:

Leading involves hard work on the front end of an endeavor. Leaders are responsible for casting the vision, establishing the mission, determining and acquiring the resources, and giving the workforce direction. The role of the leader is to lead people.

Managers have the responsibility of fulfilling the mission in the direction of the leader’s vision. The manager must accomplish the task set forth by the leader through the work of employees under their charge. The manager manages people.

Workers – frontline employees, have the task of executing the mission and accomplishing the leader’s vision by doing the work required to achieve the desired result. Workers follow the instruction of the manager to accomplish their goal. The worker works.

Sometimes, the leader manages. At times, the manager must lead. Often, a worker leads, even though they don’t have the formal title or positional authority. Workers even manage, sometimes. None of the roles are mutually exclusive; all of the roles are likely to overlap in a single individual.

Your role in your organization is not limited to the office you hold. Your role is to lead when the organization needs direction, to manage when the organization has a purpose, and work to accomplish the vision.

Understanding your role isn’t always, nor often, simple. Sometimes your role as a worker is to lead tenaciously. Other times, your role as a manager is to work harder than anyone else. Your obligation to lead may look more like the task of the frontline staff than the back-office executive.

Don’t confuse your role with your rank, and don’t assume your work determines your role.

Question: Share how your roles overlap. You can leave a comment by clicking here.



I am an author, speaker, and leader with a passion for developing people into practical leaders who put their principles into practice. I am the co-author of the acclaimed book Faith Acts with best-selling author Dillon Burroughs, the Chief Operations Officer at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, and an independent leadership consultant to up and coming leaders and start up nonprofit organizations. My greatest joy, however, is serving Christ and his Church. I am the proud husband of Shay and father of two great boys. We live in Chattanooga, TN. #NoogaStrong

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or downright annoying.

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