Leaders and managers are necessary in organizations, and we all hope for a manager, director, or supervisor to also be a dynamic and competent leader. Nevertheless, those qualities are not mutually exclusive. There is a difference between leading people and managing work. At one time in business, we were taught that being a good manager meant being task-oriented: balancing budgets, coordinating schedules, and keeping the organization afloat. These days, modern workplaces and millennial employees require more from their workplace managers than driving a task. They want autonomy, structure, support, and orientation rewards.
Think back to a job that you had and loved. It might be your current position or a job you had when you were younger. What did you love about that job aside from pay, benefits, and working with your friends? I bet that you may have liked that job because you felt supported, valued, and you could do your job while pushing toward the goals together as a team. I know I like that! Employees want to be part of a team that executes its mission, and each member has their unique part in that mission. No one wants to be part of a pointless machine. They want to feel like their contribution is meaningful and supported by their management.
What do leaders do?
Check out the picture above. What differences do you notice in the narrative? The first example of the manager (“boss”) shows the figure managing the work of the team. Someone must manage the work of a team to accomplish a goal, so this is not out of the ordinary.
In the second example, the leader is out in front of the team motivating and influencing the team toward the goal. The person in front is not doing all the work, but giving direction and allowing others to do their jobs too. Where do you see yourself reflected in the two picture examples? How about the management at your workplace?
Leaders create value and influence. Leaders give directions to establishing details of tasks. A leader motivates. A leader has a vision and is willing to step outside of their comfort zone to explore ideas that other team members may have. It might be a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking. Leaders see opportunity instead of limitations; they forge new paths.
Managers give the details of a task. Managers instruct. Managers keep teams on track and redirect when necessary. Managers see the big picture; they follow pre-planned paths.
Being a leader can be intimidating. You put yourself out there for the sake of the bigger picture and the cause. Being a leader is not easy to do, and it’s a constant recommitment to doing the right thing instead of always doing things right. Leaders make mistakes, and that is normal. My intention in showing the differences are not to create a dichotomy between leaders being good and managers being bad. On the contrary! Managers create important things for organizations, yet leaders can bring organizations and its employees to a whole new level of productivity and accomplishment.
Think about how you contribute to your team. What makes you a good manager? What makes you a good leader? What qualities do you see in team members and leaders of your organization that you’d like to emulate?
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