SOONER or later, any Management 101 class stumbles on the classic question: managers and leaders—do they differ, or are they one and the same?

When that stumps the class into silence, some staring at the classroom ceiling for answers, the professor asks further: Look, why are all the countries’ heads, from presidents to prime ministers, premiers, kings and queens, called “world leaders” and not “world managers?”

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

On a grander scale such as a forum assessing the first 100 days of a new administration, the manager-or-leader question again comes into play. The new mayor presents what he’s done so far since his assumption, and the reactors articulate their assessments, couched either as statements of fact or statements of hope.

Such marked the “Understanding Choices Forum” earlier this month. Organized by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc., the theme was “The First 100 Days: Results Matter.”

One must credit Mayor Michael Rama for the very fact-filled report on his administration’s accomplishments in the first 30 days vis-à-vis the targets.

Similarly, I doffed my hat to journalist exemplar Juan “Johnny” Mercado and columnist-professor Fernando “Perry” Fajardo for situating the Rama administration’s accomplishments against the bigger picture of expectations.

While managers focus on the present and what’s necessary, leaders focus on the future and what’s possible. The good mayor focused on his accomplishments in dominantly routine projects—asphalt, health, street lighting, peace and order, garbage and environment, traffic, and drainage and flood control.

The asphalting projects estimated at P 31 million have been endorsed to the City Council for funding. The virtual post-script “Will pursue the project with whatever will be provided” sounded ominous, yielding, not aggressive enough.

Mercado’s push for greater transparency in fund allocations and disbursements was more like the need of the hour. No more dark days when the then-vice mayor didn’t know the total yen loan for the SRP.

Instead, Mercado challenged the mayor to do a Jesse Robredo.

The former Naga City mayor, now DILG secretary, Robredo posted on the Internet the city’s budget and all contracts; he’s doing the same thing with the DILG budget as a first step.

Who are regularly taking out full-page recruitment ads? BPO’s, mostly call centers.

Managers deal with people where they’re at; leaders take people to where they should go.

Rightfully, Fajardo thus asked: “Are these the only businesses we can get? They may be good today, but are these good for us in the long run? Why not aim farther and go deeper into the knowledge-based industry or high-tech manufacturing?”

Data from 1990 to 2000 shows that the population in the mountain barangays grew faster than in the urban barangays.

Fajardo asked: Is the trend continuing today? Is this a good thing?

Managers follow the script; leaders create or rewrite their own script. Mayor Rama has reportedly been advised by friends and well-meaning associates to be his own man; meaning, to be the real mayor than the apparent mayor.

The mayor is undebatably a really good guy. The advice is quite a tall order. But when he does become his own man, many will be rooting for him.