Executive vs. Manager

I had some vague notion about the link between an executive and the velocity of decisions. But, Foundry Group VC Seth Levine shared an interesting perspective on the difference between an executive and a manager.

My synthesis – a manager focuses on solving problems by asking – how can my team do this? – while an executive solves problems by asking – how can our company do this?

I found the framing around the perspective behind decisions useful and accurate.

While there are obvious takeaways for our careers, I thought the takeaways for our personal life are equally, if not more, interesting. When we make decisions to optimize one sub system in our life, e.g. our career or the work crisis of the moment, without paying heed to how the various sub systems (family, health, et al) co-exist, we behave as managers.

And, when we focus on making decisions based on what we’re trying to optimize for the system as a whole, we behave as executives.

As with many powerful distinctions, it all begins with a choice.