Leadership vs. Management: How They Both Contribute to Workplace Success

January 31, 2024


24 min
While the terms leadership and management are sometimes used interchangeably, there are important differences. IOFM recently spoke with Tracy Zurcher, District Manager at FedEx Ground, to get her thoughts on how to advance both within your organization.
Tracy Zurcher
Tracy Zurcher, District Manager at FedEx Ground
Grace Chlosta
Grace Chlosta, Content Manager, IOFM

While the terms leadership and management are sometimes used interchangeably, there are important differences. IOFM recently spoke with Tracy Zurcher, District Manager at FedEx Ground, to get her thoughts on how to advance both within your organization.

She notes that while management tends to focus on process handling, leadership involves relationship building. Each practice requires different skills, but mastering both is the key to success. Focusing exclusively on management skills won’t inspire optimal results — staff members may lack engagement and their performance may suffer as a result. And because people are the heart of an organization, understanding their needs and working to help them improve will ultimately result in greater employee motivation — which will also impact process improvement.

Zurcher discusses useful tools and techniques she’s discovered during her years in management, offering a fun exercise to help others define their leadership styles. She also notes the useful philosophy put forth by the legendary Mr. Rogers and how that may be applied within the workplace.

Listen to this fascinating podcast to find out more. 

Tracy Zurcher
District Manager, FedEx Ground

Tracy was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. She has traveled extensively, both in the U.S. and abroad, but has never lived anywhere else. She is a proud and loyal fan of her hometown sports teams – win or lose – and a devoted 40-year Bon Jovi fan.

She is the wife of 32 years to Michael, a police officer, and proud mom to Zachary (26) who works for the FBI, Gage (24) who is an aspiring Orthopedic Surgeon, and Tiegan (3) a French Bulldog who thinks she’s a princess.

While her career path found her in Corporate America, it was never where she thought she wanted to be. Sometimes, however, she believes everyone ends up where they’re supposed to be. She is proud to be a part of the FedEx Ground family for the last 19 years, and that she’s able to work in a culture that supports her passions for DEI, growth, and leadership.

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Grace Chlosta: Welcome to the IOFM podcast. This is a podcast for accounts payable and accounts receivable professionals who want to stay in the know with current AP and AR trends and ideas. We'll be interviewing professionals in this space on a wide variety of subjects, including automation, artificial intelligence, career growth, compliance, leadership, and much more.


Today, we'll be interviewing Tracy Zurcher. Tracy was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She's traveled extensively, both in the U.S. and abroad, but has never lived anywhere else. She's a proud and loyal fan of her hometown sports teams, win or lose, and a devoted 40-year Bon Jovi fan. She's the wife of 32 years to Michael, a police officer, and proud mom to Zachary, who works for the FBI; and Gage, who is an aspiring orthopedic surgeon; and Teagen, a French bulldog who thinks she's a princess.


While her career path found her in corporate America, it was never where she thought she wanted to be. Sometimes, however, she believes, we all end up exactly where we're supposed to be. She's a proud part of the FedEx Ground family, and has been for the last 19 years. She is proud that she is able to work in a company and a culture that supports her passions for DEI, growth, and leadership. 

Today, she'll be interviewed by me, Grace Chlosta. I joined the Institute of Finance and Management in 2022, in a new role for our team as the content manager. I'm responsible for the planning, organization, development, and implementation of all of the content for IOFM's digital products and virtual and in-person events. I'm committed to ensuring that IOFM's content stays timely, relevant, and actionable for all financial operations professionals, and I work closely with a team of content developers, industry leaders, and subject matter experts to guarantee this happens. 


All right, and we are here with Tracy today. Welcome, Tracy; it's so good to have you. 

Tracy Zurcher: Yeah, it's great to be here. Thank you.

Grace Chlosta: Awesome. If you just want to start us off, give us a little bit of information about how you are, where you're from, and what kind of conversation we're going to be having today.

Tracy Zurcher: Sure. So my name is Tracy Zurcher. I am a district manager with FedEx ground in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. I've traveled extensively, but I've never lived anywhere but here. I've had many hats here at FedEx, but one of the things near and dear to my heart is the leadership component of what I do every day.

Today, I wanted to see if I could hold a conversation with you about the proponents of leadership versus management. So what I'd like to do is spend some time sharing insights on both and speak about the differences between a manager and a leader. As I step through the conversation, I'd like to share my perspective on how we can effectively manages process while excelling at leading our people. 


There are many resources that I reviewed when I was looking to create this conversation. I looked at who inspired me throughout my formative years, but I also turned to motivation as an adult working in corporate America by thinking of John Maxwell and his insightful and thought-provoking observations, and, most notably, I reflect on the philosophies of Fred Rogers from "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" and the many ways that he created simplistic, yet meaningful messages, that have resonated with me my entire life.

When I think about defining "management" and "leadership," I tend to perceive management as the management or oversight of processes, projects, and tasks. You manage timekeeping. You manage expectations. You manage audits and even functions. Conversely, when I think of leadership, I think of people. I want to manage processes, but I want to lead people. 


What I'd like to talk about is whether or not there can be some overlap. I think absolutely. However, I think of leadership as being present for your team, anticipating needs, being transparent, and being a good communicator. Earning trust and never taking your team for granted is paramount. The best words that are sometimes associated with management can be words like "bandwidth" and "timebound" and "rigid." 

Conversely, I feel like a lot of the buzzwords that go around leadership are words like "communication" and "passion" and "determination." You can see how vastly different those adjectives are when describing the two.

I feel like an important component of the distinctions between management versus leadership is self-awareness. Self-awareness, to me, is important in any journey to discover your strengths and to give you tools to hone in on how you can be an effective leader. 


We've all heard the terms of "read the room" and "know your audience." These tenets hold great value in the overall success of your leadership. Common phrases, like "What type of shadow do you cast?" and "walk the talk" and "perception is reality," to me, all foster principles of learning how to meld you with how others see you. This is the key to successfully mastering your goals and being an effective manager or leader. Do you look at yourself as someone who is more immersed in timebound processes, or someone who's driven to inspire and engage their team? 

When I move through "empowerment" and how you actually apply that and what that looks like, answer me this: What is your favorite brand? Why do you go back to it? It is the same with cultivating a personal brand as a leader. People will go back to you; consistency, integrity, and trust will achieve that. 


You can manage processes, you can manage time, and you can manage projects, but you need to lead people. Lead them to command their own development. Lead them to arrive at an answer or make a decision on their own, but lead them through change and through times of uncertainty. 

One of the most critical components of this communication. Not only is it important to communicate, but it is equally important to select the right means of communication for the type of information that you actually need to convey. For example, if you have something confidential to communicate to  your staff, but it is not to leave your team, you might want that information to be verbal, instead of in writing. However, if it's something with a lot of detail, such as information about a project or maybe an event, you may want that in writing so it's sharable and easily understood.


Grace Chlosta: Could you give us a few more real-world examples, maybe of some times that there was some failure in being a leader on the team — more of like a manager versus a leader? What are some real-life examples that people could use back in their day-to-day?

Tracy Zurcher: Sure. Later in the podcast, I do have some additional examples, but I feel like, again, it's about communication and the type of communication that is preferred by the recipients of the information. It's very, very easy to fail. When you're looking at reward and recognition, for an example, you may have a shy person on your team. You call them up in an auditorium, in front of 100 people to give them an award. They would rather crawl under a rock than be recognized in that format.


Therefore, the reward and recognition you just initiated backfired. So it's really important not only to lead and recognize as you are doing that, but it's really critical to understand how your team prefers to receive that feedback or that recognition. 

Grace Chlosta: Absolutely. That's so true.

Tracy Zurcher: Right. And one of the other things that I think is very important with the reward and recognition piece is making sure that it's timely. It can very easily be a failure if you don't initiate that R&R on the heels of the actual action or the event. When you wait too long to make that announcement or to give that recognition, it loses its luster.


Also, leading through change. One of the most difficult challenges in my career was managing and leading my team through a change that involved job loss for some of our colleagues in another location. Staffing effectiveness brings a whole new dynamic and set of challenges for a manager or leader. It's very easy to fail if you do not give the perception that you are on board with the change that's occurring. It makes it challenging for a leader to maintain momentum, engagement, and productivity in the face of a difficult and very emotional situation. 

Grace Chlosta: Absolutely. That's a really great point.


Tracy Zurcher: Also, I was thinking about framing that piece up on inclusion of thought. Often in tandem with leading through change, you really need to be sure that you are letting your staff know that you want their input. You put yourself at great risk as a leader when you're perceived as someone who's making all the decisions themselves — "my way or the highway." You're not really thinking about inclusion of thought.

Leadership is about letting your staff know that you want their input. Mitigate risk by letting them know that you need their subject matter expertise, and you have a desire to include their ideas in the decision-making process. Making sure that you're getting people to understand and believe in your vision or your company's vision, and then work with you to achieve your goals, while managing is more about day-to-day administering and making sure the day-to-day things are happening as they're designed to do. 


I think valuing others and making sure that you're being mindful to respect others' opinions, and solicit ideas and process improvements. I feel like nothing really engages people faster than to know that they matter. And make sure that you're listening. Often, all employees want is a lending ear. 

One of the mistakes I made early on in my career in leadership is that I am a fixer by nature. I want to fix everyone's problems. I want to help you in any way I can. And sometimes that's a very hard concept to harness. If you're a fixer, you're inclined to want to give people solutions, when often they just want to be heard and figure it out on their own. 

Grace Chlosta: Absolutely. I know that we talked in a previous conversation about some of the consequences that might be faced if you're not really focusing on leading your people, and relying solely on managing your tasks. So what are some things that could happen if you're not supporting your team and being more of that hands-on leader like you're discussing?


Tracy Zurcher: Sure. I feel like managers manage work, but leaders encourage the heart. Being an advocate of servant leadership and keeping that fundamental belief that the role of the servant leader is to make people better than what they are or what they think they can accomplish. Removing any gender biases that can sometimes be a fix to leadership, like: "Women are caregivers by nature. They're better servant leaders."

I've also heard, on the flipside of that, "Women are too emotional. They let leading with their hearts interfere with leading the mission or the masses." I've had success being in an organization that [rolled up] to both men and women, and I've had successful leaders of both genders. I don't feel that gender differences play a role in who's driven to be successful. 

I think that is achieved by unifying and lifting people up. Leaders provide a vision and a path, not negativity and division, which is a huge risk involving leadership. Leaders focus on helping followers be better versions of themselves. 


When I think about who I've looked up to or who has mentored me, I never walked away from somebody that I valued as a leader feeling worse about myself. After talking with a leader, you should always feel better about you and the person or the contributor, or more optimistic about the issue that you have at hand, and make a conscious effort every day to leave a person or a situation better than how you found it. 

Grace Chlosta: Absolutely. That's really, really great advice. I want to talk to you a little bit about buzzwords. What are some common management buzzwords that management might use versus what leaders might use? And what is their significance on the workplace?


Tracy Zurcher: Sure. So when I think about the connotations or buzzwords around each one, I think that you really have to look at whether or not they are divided competencies or whether you can actually be both. Can you be effective wearing both hats as a manager or leader? Is it only successful with good communication? Should you be one or the other.

I think many traits make up a strong leader. Some of the buzzwords and characteristics are someone who is dynamic and honest and promoting integrity. That's a crucial component to get people to believe in you and buy in the journey. 


Another buzzword of a leader is a vision. They're a visionary. They know where they are, where they want to go, and they implore their teams to chart a path to the future. Bring them with you; don't drag them along. 

Inspiration. People that are good leaders have buzzwords around inspiration and inspiring your team to be all they can be, and make sure that they understand their role in the bigger picture. 

I also think that good communicators and the ability to challenge the status quo are buzzwords are leaders. Don't be afraid to challenge the status quo, do things differently, and have the courage to think outside of the box. Keep your team informed as a communicator. Keep them informed of the journey: where you are, where you're headed, and any roadblocks that you're going to encounter along the way. 


Conversely, I think some of the buzzwords around being a manager are [being] an executor. While leaders are immersed in their vision, those with management focus take a strategic vision and break it down into a roadmap that can be followed by the team. Managers can be directive as a buzzword. Day-to-day work efforts, reviewing timelines, deadlines, and anticipating needs. Someone that's process-driven. They establish work roles and processes and standards. And resource-focused, making sure that you're ensuring adequate staffing, orchestrating meetings and project plans and delegating work. 

Grace Chlosta: Absolutely. That's fantastic. And what are some of your thoughts on how influence and inspiration can really differentiate leaders from managers also?


Tracy Zurcher: Sure. So I think for the first piece of that, inspiration is, again, just tying back to leaving a person, place, or a thing better than how you found it, whether it's just a small hello in the morning, a greeting, letting somebody know that they did a great job with an email — anything that you can do along that line that kind of takes you out of that task-driven mindset. I really feel like that really goes a long way to inspire and grow people and also to have them instill their trust in you, which is key to the journey as well.

Grace Chlosta: Absolutely. I feel like a big part of being a leader also is really just making sure that your team feels cared for and just that management piece of having good team members and a good leader to rely on and be able to take advice from and knowledge share. What are some ways that leaders and managers can really help team build and help members of their team feel like they're in a community?


Tracy Zurcher: Sure. So when you think about how you can effectively balance and leverage strengths from managers and leaders, I feel like neither trait is one-dimensional, and both can actually play off of one another. There are a lot of team-building exercises and ice-breakers that you can do that really just help everyone understand that you don't become a leader without experiencing failure along the way. It's often in failure that someone's leadership potential is truly defined.

Some of these exercises give great meaning to the term "failing forward" and looking at these situations not as end results and negatives; rather, looking at them as lessons learned and learning opportunities. I really feel like there's a plethora of resources out there. If you Google "teambuilding," it almost breaks it down for you, very intuitively, as to how you can engage and inspire and grow your team from a leadership standpoint, and also how you can create similar tasks or teambuilding activities where you're talking about process and Gantt charts and timelines. 


And then just figuring out how to meld those two and put that leadership component and that true care and concern for the actual people doing the processes in front of the tasks and the timelines and the deadlines and the [unintelligible]. It's a really easy way to kind of meld those two together. 

Grace Chlosta: No, absolutely. That's great advice. One of my favorite things you mentioned before were two keywords that I kind of picked up: Mister Rogers and then we also have talked about candy bars and how different managers can kind of relate back to some popular candy bars. I'd love to start with the candy bars, because I feel like that's such a unique take. Could you take me through some of the different candy bars we might all know and what sort of managers those might be that people can maybe identify themselves within?


Tracy Zurcher: Sure. Candy is always a fun topic and a good way to get people conversing and interacting. A fun way that I use to get my team immersed in the leadership concept and to get some honest feedback about the type of leaders that they've had in the past, what they need from me, is to perform an assimilation exercise tying candy to actual leadership qualities.

I have the team think about very different types of leaders that they've worked with or for and then picked one of these candy bars that most closely identified with their leadership style. Obviously, I had candy bars present in the room to enjoy after the exercise, and I gave them a few minutes to jot down some of their initial thoughts. Some of the examples would be a Payday candy bar. Maybe this is a leader that's only in it for the money. They can be mostly salty when they're interacting with people, and just a small portion of the time they can be softer and sweet, easier to work with and engage with.


You may have had experience with a Mr. Goodbar. This leader or manager want to be everyone's friend. They're aware of diversity. They incorporate great techniques to bring differences together; however, they may let their propensity to want to be liked get in the way of making unbiased decisions. 

You can throw out a Three Musketeers. This leader is all about teamwork. They want to see people work successfully in groups with an all-for-one, one-for-all attitude. 

A Snickers might be someone that brings humor to every situation and tries to make people see the lighter side of the issue or the problem. You might have some Nutrageouses in the room. This would be a leader who you never know what you're going to get. You can't figure out the person and they're ever changing. They're sometimes difficult to work with because there's many layers to their personality that may inhibit growth or interaction on a positive front.


The other two that I had were an Airhead — as the name suggests, maybe it's someone that just doesn't get it. We've all worked with or for someone like that, I'm sure. The last one that's a great example was a Butterfinger. Every good opportunity slips through this manager's hands. They don't possess the skills to make ideas stick or effectively support the people that they lead. 

Grace Chlosta: What sort of manager or candy bar do you think you would most relate to?

Tracy Zurcher: Well, I think I usually tend to be more of a Mr. Goodbar. I think it's innate for all of us that we all want to be well liked. It's a very fine line, crossing over  between friendly and a friend and how that can kind of muddy the lines between a supervisory relationship and just making sure that the person feels supported personally and professionally.


Grace Chlosta: Absolutely. And I want to end it a little bit with the Mister Rogers aspect. You talked about how his sort of leadership advise — or I guess who he is as a person and what he kind of expressed on his show — really resonated with you and it's really helped shape who you are as a leader and manager today. Could you share some of that advice with our listeners?

Tracy Zurcher: Absolutely. So one of the things that really stuck with me was a quote that he made much later in his career, where he said, "The short distance between a TV screen and a child sitting in front of it is sacred space." Much like a child in front of a TV screen, those that we lead are vulnerable. They're impressionable to a degree and they're captive to our directive in many instances.

He had a lot of great quotes that exemplify his belief in leadership in all facets of life, both personally and professionally. Some of the ones that stick out to me most are: "Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else. The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self. Our of periods of losing come the greatest strivings towards a new winning streak. We all have different gifts, so we all have different ways of saying to the world who we are. Never forget that every human being has inherent dignity." 


Grace Chlosta: Great things to look back on. I think we all have fond memories of Mister Rogers and some of those basic quotes that we might have taken for granted as a child can really be applied to our adult life in our career, so that's really great advice. Any other, last thoughts or last things you want to share about leadership versus management?

Tracy Zurcher: Absolutely. I'd like to wrap up the session today just by adding a little more flavor around Fred Rogers and his accomplishments. At the 1997 Emmy Awards, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work, and I encourage you to seek out that video of the event and just digest what his message was. It was both thought-provoking as well as uplifting as only Mister Rogers could accomplish.


I hope this dialogue finds you leaving today with a heightened awareness of the importance of utilizing your gifts to elevate your team, understand the differences between the day-to-day management and true leadership to motivate and inspire those around you. In times of automation, process changes, and organizational strategies that are often bigger than all of us, it's crucial that we meld our daily, task-based management roles with our ability and, quite frankly, our obligation to lead our teams to best-in-class success in our industries. I just implore you to think about how leadership and daily management play different as well as overlapping roles in your day-to-day. 

Take what you've digested from the information that I've provided and, with intention, think about: How will you implement something that you've learned? How will you foster honest, earn respect, demonstrate integrity, and inspire someone, leaving them better than how you found them? 


In the words of Fred Rogers: "There's no one else quite like you." 

Grace Chlosta: That's fantastic, Tracy. Well, thank you so, so much. It was such a pleasure to speak with you today. I'm sure everyone can leave this conversation feeling a little more inspired to go out there and be a better leader and manager to their team, so thank you so much.

Tracy Zurcher: You're so welcome. Thank you for the opportunity. Have a great day.

Grace Chlosta: Yes. You too. Thank you.

[music playing]

Thank you so much for listening to the IOFM podcast. Remember to head on over to the Member Forum to discuss today's episode and provide ideas for our next one. And to stay up to date on IOFM's current events, both in-person and virtually, head on over to IOFM.com.

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