Individual contributors are the people in your organization (you?) on the front lines. They’re the ones doing the heavy lifting, the direct customer interaction, and running the day to day operations. Most importantly, a great individual contributor has a sense of purpose, seeks mastery of her craft, and delivers results autonomously.
Managers are the people running teams of individual contributors. Great managers are leaders and coaches. They develop individual contributors into top performers. But more importantly, like a conductor of a symphony, a manager learns the unique personalities and strengths of her team and then helps them learn to work together seamlessly.
Executives are the people at the top, setting the strateg and direction at the highest level. They are the ones responsible for visionary thinking, long-term strategic planning, and making sure their people have the tools and resources they need to succeed. They keep an eye on the business, diving in to support managers and individual contributors whenever necessary.
But most importantly, the best executives are really just information gatherers. They listen carefully to their individual contributors and managers. They seek out learning from the people who actually understand what happens day to day. And then they do everything they can to serve those people.
So which are you? An individual contributor, a manager, or an executive? More importantly: are you any good?