Introduction to OKRs for Leadership and Management

Leaders and managers can benefit enormously from implementing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). OKRs help leaders set the course toward the organization’s North Star and are vital to bridging the gap between strategy and operations. OKRs help managers improve their own leadership skills and ensure that strategies set by executive leadership translate into effective action.

This guide lays out ways leadership and management can leverage OKRs.

Differences Between Leadership and Management

If you are responsible for the actions of others, your role likely involves both leadership and management skills. Although the terms ‘leaders’ and ‘managers’ are often interchanged, they often own different outcomes. Leaders are responsible for clearly defining the strategic vision; managers are responsible for translating it into action. The same person can hold both roles, but here are some valuable distinctions between these two modes of thinking:

The Top 10 Leadership and Management Qualities

How Leaders Set Stretch Goals

How Managers Can Motivate Teams With Something Other Than Money


Every leader must make strategic choices to accomplish the company mission. To help determine which strategies are best, good leaders know that a company’s “why” guides their most important work. A good “why” is specific to the organization and helps teams connect day-to-day work with strategy and purpose. Leaders can never underestimate the power of clearly stating what the group is working toward or how activity turns into impact. OKRs are a particularly effective way for leaders to communicate outcomes:

Strategies for Leaders to Find Their Company’s Purpose

How Leaders Can Shift Their Culture

Examples of Strong OKRs for Leaders

The 5 Superpowers OKRs Provide Leaders

How Leaders Cascade Priorities throughout an Org

A Helpful Chat on Effective Leadership


Every action is the result of a decision. Some decisions are simple, some are complicated. However, the quality of decision-making drives success. Management ensures everyone on the team has the information they need to make the best decisions possible — even when they aren’t in the room. That’s one reason OKRs are essential to management: When everyone knows what success looks like, deciding what to do next is that much simpler.

When teams are progressing on an OKR, it’s validation that the manager’s efforts align with leadership’s overall organizational strategy. On the other hand, failing to progress on an OKR is an early warning signal — it tells management and leadership that plans or resources may need to be adjusted. OKRs are compatible with a number of popular management methodologies including Agile, Scrum, Balanced Scorecard, and MBOs. While there are a lot of similarities between OKRs and these methodologies, managers will benefit from using OKRs as intended, and not to replace traditional project management tools. Here are more ways managers can leverage OKRs:

How Managers Can Make Meetings More Effective

Strategies to Eliminate Micromanagement

OKRs at the Manager Level

Ways Managers Can Encourage Leadership to Adopt OKRs

How Managers Can Give Feedback to Employees (Upcoming)

Skills For Both Leadership and Management

Every organization needs both strategic thinking — a core leadership trait, as well as organizational and execution acumen — a core management trait. OKRs highlight the synergy between idea and execution — boosting the effectiveness of both domains. Incorporating OKRs helps crystallize goals, articulate vision, and adapt project plans to real-life.

The OKR methodology can also help leaders and managers offer effective feedback. John Doerr, author of Measure What Matters, describes CFRs (short for Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition), as the “sibling” to OKRs. Learn more about how CFRs complement OKRs, and the best way to practice them. CFRs ensure that feedback isn’t a once-a-year activity. After all, your team is working towards your goals every day. In fact, some companies like Adobe use continuous performance management for OKR conversations between employees and their leaders or managers.

What Leaders and Managers Can Learn from Google’s OKR Playbook

How Leaders and Managers Can Roll Out OKRs for the First Time

When Managers and Leaders Have to Say No

The typical OKR Cycle for Leaders and Managers

A Surprising Way OKRs Made this Leader Better at His Job

Leadership and Management FAQs

What is Leadership?

Leadership refers to the ability to influence and guide others towards a common goal. It involves inspiring and motivating team members, setting a vision, and fostering a positive environment. As John Doerr says, “Leaders must get across the *why* as well as the *what*. Their people need more than milestones for motivation.”

What is Management?

Effective management ensures day-to-day actions are happening as they should in alignment with strategic goals and the organization’s mission and values. In other words, managers own getting what needs to be done, done. They are the drivers of achieving success through operational excellence — no easy feat.

What is the Difference Between Leadership and Management?

Leaders inspire people to set and achieve a vision; they help define and select crucial strategic choices along the way. A manager’s primary focus is delivering the outputs that roll up to the mission. The same person can be both leader and manager — the difference is as much a mindset than a role. Leadership is about setting direction, and management is about effectively executing plans. Both leadership and managerial skill are necessary to accomplish a company’s goals.

What Does a Good Leader do?

Effective leaders inspire people to focus, align, and commit to meaningful work. They make sure everyone understands and shares the vision. Leaders orient teams to long-term outcomes and help answer the questions: “What’s next?” and “Why?” — they’re often focused on growth.

What Does a Good Manager do?

Managers are often directly responsible for operations and guide teams to connect the strategy to the actions. They often lead planning and have to decide how best to use resources to execute a vision. Good managers make sure everything runs smoothly.

What are Key Managerial and Leadership Skills?

Key skills include effective communication, strategic thinking, empathy, decision-making, problem-solving, financial planning or management, team building, and the ability to adapt to change.

How Managers and Leaders Communicate

Leaders typically use language to inspire people; managers typically emphasize the work or actions that need to be achieved. Leaders set the vision; managers decide how to execute it. Leaders shape cultural values; managers ensure the organization is capable of creating that culture. Managers are most often directly responsible for ensuring every individual’s actions align with the company’s needs. Leaders make managers more effective when they clearly state the company’s needs and priorities.

How Do Leaders and Managers Work Together?

Leadership and management are complementary skills within organizations. Successful organizations need both strong leadership for direction and inspiration, and solid management to handle the execution and operational details. Objectives and Key Results(OKRs) help both leaders and managers drive meaningful and significant changes within their organizations.

Where can I get more information?

This system is deceptively simple, but when used properly, good OKRs will equip your organization with Leadership and Managerial superpowers. Learn more by reading “Measure What Matters” or exploring more FAQs, Resources, and Stories right here on

Ready to get started with OKRs? Learn the basics of OKRs in our free OKR course for beginners.