So what do you do…….what’s in a title?


As a bit of a geeky work psychologist with a social psychological bent, I am always fascinated by the question people ask when we first meet them………”so what do you do?”.  Needless to say we as Western culture (UK), tend to use this question as a indicator as to where the person is within a social hierarchy.  Though surely we can’t be that shallow to focus upon the jobs we do rather than finding out more interesting things about the person……..can we?

This question came into focus when reading the reams & reams of posts on Linkedin on coaching executives and what is an executive, manager and a leader (I know I need to get out more!) . Of course the executive coaches, leadership & performance consultants all had a view and very interesting reading it was. So what is the difference between a manager, executive and a leader? Are the differences that clear cut and does it matter. Clearly it does to some. Here are the definitions from Cambridge Dictionaries on-line (

  • Manager – a person who is responsible for managing the organisation
  • Leader – a person in control of a group, a country or situation
  • Executive – a person who is in a high position, especially in business, who makes decisions and puts them into action
  • Technician – a worker trained with special skills, especially science and engineering.

(I have added the role of the technician and hopefully all will become clear shortly.) Now the very brief descriptions of the job titles discussed on Linkedin message boards suggests clear divisions between tasks and responsibilities. Though I am sure we can all agree that these titles are not necessarily exclusive and can and do overlap. So what’s in a title?

Not so long ago I had a conversation with a HR director from a very large supermarket chain who suggested that there are three type of jobs in most organisations – technical, managerial and executive/leadership. Technically he was probably right, however, what about the hybrid? Hybrid people and managers sprang from the IT industry to describe people who crossed the traditional job boundaries to cover a number of different roles.

The hybrid people have technical knowledge and skills, and a number of team managerial/leadership capabilities. The hybrid manager simply does that but at a higher level. They would both usually be involved with development teams and be able to deal with problems that arise on either developmental and manufacturing stages. Hybrid managers are excellent project managers with all the necessary knowledge and background to operate in a business environments with the attributes noted in the job roles above. Hybrid Managers have the technical knowledge, broad business understanding, excellent management & leadership skills. These people would usually find themselves in operational capacity, as they can bridge the gaps and differences in the daily running of a business.

If you are a hybrid manager of a factory or organisation – then you will have the understanding of the technical and mechanical processes of the production/storage/distribution on site, an understanding of the markets you are selling your products, and be able to manage & lead all the people all around you. Having the knowledge of the organisation and the understanding of what the business will allow you to better create Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) according to the measures of the success of all parts of the business. These management skills will come in handy driving people to achieve the KPIs .

With hybrid people and managers the lines become blurred.  Contemporary traditional managers and people face many demands in organisations, mainly teamwork, leadership, stress, counselling, organizational change, financial, implementation, product and service quality. The question is therefore that the hybrids have a good balance of skills and abilities that cross traditional job boundaries.  Moreover, provide businesses the opportunity for well informed with a global understanding of the business. However, this can only work with a strong and supportive organisational culture and structure.


O’Connor, G. Smallman, C. (1995) “The hybrid manager: a review”, Management Decision, Vol. 33 Iss: 7, pp.19 – 28

Palmer, C. (1990) ‘Hybrids’ – a critical force in the application of information technology in the nineties. Journal of Information Technology, 5, 232-235.

Clegg, C. W. (1993) Social systems that marginalise the psychological and organizational aspects of information technology. Behaviour and Information Technology , 12, 261-266.

Hornby, P. et al. (1992) Human and organizational issues in information systems development. Behaviour and Information Technology, 11, 160-174.

Clegg, C. W. et al. (1996) Tools to incororate some physiological and organizational issues during the development of computer-based systems. Ergonomics, 39, 482-511.