Leader or manager? 3 ways to tell
Monday, April 24, 2017
Are you a leader who spends a lot of time managing people, projects and goals? Or are you the one who drives and motivates others yet are not officially recognized as a leader?
Everyone — from long-tenured employees with institutional knowledge to entrepreneurs, small business owners and those new or returning to the workforce — often performs a variety of roles to address the needs of the organization. But who is a leader and who is a manager? Here are three ways to tell.
1. Big details
Leaders spend a significant portion of their time focused on the bigger picture. In contrast, managers must look at what is right in front of them, make sure it works and focus on ways to keep it working.
This is often why employees think executives do not really do anything: they just talk to each other, read and network with other executives, then every once in a while, they show up with a new vision which results in more work for managers. Managers on the other hand, seem to employees to do all the work: staying late, caring about the numbers, and covering for team members, but rarely being invited to the big-picture decision meetings.
However, leading an organization requires both an understanding of its management and the ability to allow other people to handle it. Doing so allows leaders to figure out whether an office should be opened or closed, when to expand into a new business service, or why a division should be divested.
Managers, on the other hand, play a critical role: providing accurate data so leaders can make an informed decision as well as ensuring the business continues operating before, during and after organizational change.
2. Telling or answering
Managers spend much of their day telling people what to do and ensuring operations are functioning at appropriate levels. Leaders tend to set the overall vision for what should be done and why, leaving managers to ensure how it is done happens.
Leaders in management roles tend to be the manager that everyone — regardless of department — seeks out for advice, help and support. In contrast, managers in leadership roles tend to get too involved in the daily operations of the business; this is often seen as micromanaging.
Another critical difference between leaders and managers is individuality. In other words, management roles require the people filling them to exhibit key characteristics and perform behaviors the organization has determined result in success. In turn, each manager within the organization exhibits those same characteristics and performs similar behaviors.
Leaders, on the other hand, are often prized and supported for their unique approach. In turn, they are encouraged to be creative, take chances and bring their individual characteristics and behaviors to the role.
Thus, leaders in management roles often struggle against the system, are seen as outliers or are constantly frustrated at the limits placed on them. Similarly, managers in leadership roles are not creative, tend to focus too rigidly on systems or details and may devalue individuality or creative thinking.
The bottom line is: Both leaders and managers realize the importance of each other's roles. The key to being either a strong leader or a solid manager is to recognize the differences between leadership and management and put systems in place to ensure employees end up in the right role.
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