Jersey Jack – April 2019


Leaders vs. Managers

Which Role Do You Play in Your Organization?

Jack Guarnieri

by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball &

The other day, I was talking to a good friend who also owns a business and we were discussing leadership and management. We were asking each other if leaders were born or if they were made. After talking and laughing a bit, we agreed that while it’s a bit of both, the edge goes to the born leaders.

A manager is typically a person who makes sure that a company’s policies and plans are enforced and carried out. In the process, they supervise and, based on performance, reward, fire or promote the employees. This is all pretty general, but a manager is usually the person held responsible for their own actions, as well as of those they supervise.

A leader may not hold a management position at all. Leaders usually set goals while managers complete tasks. It’s been written that managers have subordinates who must listen while leaders have followers who choose to follow. Many managers are able to get people to follow the rules and complete tasks. Most leaders inspire and have a vision for an organization and are able to build a team of people to work towards that vision.

Leaders need to have integrity and honesty and be transparent (a trait that’s helpful for all), which enables others to believe in them. Leaders are people who communicate well, keep their team informed, build them up, encourage and inspire. They show the way toward the future and are always planning ahead and making sure that path is level and can be navigated by those around them.

The leader of an organization is usually the person who presents new ideas and opportunities, always having a pulse on new technology, market conditions, the customer and future trends before they happen. In contrast, the manager usually maintains control over what has already been established. In some ways, the leader creates chaos and can disrupt the status-quo.

So, can a person be both? Of course, but it’s important for that person to understand what both jobs entail and the benefit of shifting between the two roles at times.

Many years ago in the Boy Scouts, I was asked to lead my patrol of about seven fellow Scouts. Succeeding in that and other leadership roles, I was asked to be Senior Patrol Leader, in charge of the whole troop of over 60 young men. In other organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, I was a founding Grand Knight and later chosen to be a District Deputy. Without going into the description of these positions (Google is your friend), let’s say simply that these were leadership roles.

In starting Jersey Jack Pinball, I’ve been told many times that I was a visionary entrepreneur and leader (maybe I was clueless…ha, ha). Nevertheless, I was able to inspire a great group of people who I considered to be smarter than I was to disrupt a part of the industry with a product we helped revolutionize with innovation and new technology. It was very difficult and challenging, but I did lead the team over the mountain to deliver the product. There were many roadblocks (and even land mines), but we were led by a person determined to succeed. There were some failures along that road, but anyone who finds success must have also failed along the way. A leader is not deterred by obstacles and some failure.

I have looked at myself and have tried to be a servant-leader. I am no better than anyone else. In the organization I built, there is no pyramid with me at the top. I’ll never ask someone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself and years ago, I could be found delivering games or jumping up and down in the cardboard dumpster.

Think about your role in your organization. Are you sometimes the leader, cheerleader, manager, visionary, worker bee, all or some? Years ago when I had myself on the work schedule for my amusement center, I was discussing my company with a friend who was the CEO of a public company. He said, “Jack, stop working the business and start running the business…”

That was important advice. I replaced myself on the schedule and was able to get out of the small jobs and truly look at the bigger picture. From that perspective, I was better able to see it all, guide, direct, grow and build it. That was some great advice.

Leader or manager: neither is a safe title as both bring a lot of risk. But if successful, they also come with a lot of reward.


Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999,, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011 he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at jack@


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