Gandalf vs. Saruman: Runner, Manager or Leader?

gandaldandsaruman Lord of the Rings fans can easily tell you the history between these guys. In Tolkein’s Middle Earth the wizards are sent to help mankind battle the evil of Sauron. In the initial stages Saruman, the guy on the right here, is established as the “leader of the white council”. So he is decidedly the guy in charge.


If you know the story then you know he eventually succumbs to evil and effectively becomes a lieutenant of Sauron. Gandalflf, meanwhile, goes from being a sort of #2 wizard, Gandalf the Grey, to being head honcho, Gandalf the White.

So how do you rate them on our personality scale?


If you recall we also loosely defined our three leadership personalities as follows:

Runner: Knows the top line goal, knows the bottom line performance needed to stay viable, often changes strategy mid race in order to accomplish the one or stay ahead of the other. We RUN organizations.

Manager: Keeps the processes running like clock work and thus can be invisible until problems arise, solves problems, likes things to run smoothly. We MANAGE processes.

Leader:Thinks people development first, often is less adept at managing upward, can sometimes less process slip. We LEAD people.


  • Chosen to lead, responsible for strategy to defeat Sauron
  • Begins to study the enemy through use of the seeing stone (palantir)
  • Becomes convinced the enemy cannot be beaten
  • Raises his own army
  • Begins to support Sauron
  • Tries to convince Gandalf of this “wisdom”
  • Winds up headed in the opposite direction from where he was chosen to lead

In a modern business sense you could argue that Saruman studied the competition and realized he could not compete and so chose the corporate buy out or merger path. Clearly those who had elected him to lead did not agree with his diagnosis nor his prognosis but he went there anyway. In the end his “enterprise” was destroyed.

In this regard he is almost pure Runner.

He radically changes direction leaving his “staff”, the other members of the white council, first confused then dismayed. He sets off on a course only he agrees is right and we then only ever seen him in the company of lackeys and yes men.

I believe the phrase “It’s lonely at the top” originated with a Runner.


  • Willing to serve as a individual contributor
  • Goes about doing what appears needing done
  • Sets others in motion
  • Is maddeningly absent from time to time
  • Eventually takes on the mantle of “executive” leadership

In a modern business sense here we get the idea Gandalf is like the guy in charge of an independent business unit. He motivates his people and gets them moving with just enough instruction to allow them to maneuver on their own when necessary. He seems to understand what it takes to motivate each of his different types of followers.

In this regard he is almost pure Leader.

Interestingly enough he also illustrates one potential weakness in the Leader personality, an inability to or a lack of regard for “managing up”…but more on that later.

Did you label them as I did?

Which personality types did you pick, and why?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply