Owner >> Leader > Manager

Abhishek Paul
3 min readAug 12, 2022

The debate on Leader vs Manager has been done to death — I have been a party to this as well. But a visit to a local restaurant recently gave me an interesting new perspective.

Krishnaveni is a small restaurant that had recently opened in my locality near the beach. It had all the teething trouble of a new business that seemed to be operated by first timers (my assumption) as opposed to experienced professionals. The same was true of the staff too. This had its advantages — there was a freshness and enthusiasm to the service, the place was neat and clean. But ever so often there would be delays, lack of availability of items due to untrained staff. The prolonged nature of these issues was eating into the credibility that was crucial for a new business to take off.

On one such day when these issues once again raised their ugly head, I saw the proprietor take charge by rolling up her sleeves, stepping in and doing all that was needed from seating the guests, taking their order, serving them and all this with a smile and polite conversation. There was no shouting at the staff or appearance of being stressed by the lack of support. She ensured that her customers were taken care of, even if it meant that she had do some of the mundane / low level tasks.

This willingness to do whatever it took to keep the business going as opposed to doing what my job requires me to do (however well done) was the key differentiator for me. The focus shifts from what is expected or what I can get to what I can/need to do to ensure the larger objective of the team or org is achieved. This is ownership to me. This is the mindset that leads to building great teams that consistently accomplishing great things.

At work I have seen people do the simple things like setting up chairs in meetings, sweeping the office late at night to ensure the interviewees coming the next day don’t have a bad impression, making time to solve problems outside their scope just because they can and they care. They are also not too upset with people when they fail to meet expectations, but help /show them what the standards are by doing it happily, rectifying the issues if needed but not putting down the other person. They build people up, give them the confidence and the desire to do better next time.

What makes it more impactful is that they don’t think they’re doing anyone any favours or talk about it, but people watching this realize what commitment and contribution really means. This is ownership and one of the hallmarks of a true leader whose contributions are far beyond their stated role / goals.

PS: This is a good talk on Extreme Ownership based on the book.