Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Leaders and Managers

As we were going through some organizational changes, it struck me as to how people were interchanging the term "leader" and "manager".  I think that mangers can be leaders but leaders don't have to be managers.  This subtle but important distinction is worth some further consideration. 
I found some good insight at regarding the characteristics of leaders and managers and added some of my own thoughts.  Ideally, your organizations managers are truely leaders.  The term "manager" below refers to the non-leader manager.

Leaders have followers, managers have subordinates - Ask yourself if people are willing to follow you or if they are doing so only because they fear for what you could do to their career.  People naturally follow leaders because they share a common goal, passion, or vision.  It is a matter of choice.  People work for managers because they have to.

Leaders don't require titles, managers do - Leadership is about your actions, not your title.  Leaders don't require authority; they must be armed with vision and passion.  Managers require a title because nobody would listen otherwise.

Leaders have a vision for the future, managers are short term thinkers - A leader takes actions for today and for tomorrow.  Leaders have a vision that others rally behind.  Teams are more engaged around a shared vision.  Managers tend to be just about the next task at hand.

Leaders are proactive, managers are reactive - Leaders see opportunities before others do and spend time sharing their line of sight with others.  Managers tend to be fire fighters, always running to put out the next blaze.

Leaders give credit, managers take credit - The leader recognizes the value of the team and gives them credit for the success of the team.  The manager tends to take the credit; after all, they are good fire fighters!

Leaders challenge the status quo, managers accept it - This comes back to vision.  Change is hard but often times necessary to stay ahead of the competition.  Leaders are driven crazy by those who explain that the reason they do something a certain way is because they always have.  Managers want you to keep doing it the same way because it worked in the past.  That may be true, but future success requires continual improvement.

Leaders are passionate, managers plan the detail - It is difficult to have followers if they do not see that you are passionate.  Have you seen the manager who is not fully behind or passionate about a project?  When that happens, does anyone on the team really get excited or put forth their best effort?  Nope.  True leaders have a passion and share it to the point that it infects the entire team.  When that happens, the team will succeed.

Leaders grow the team, managers control the team - A key element to leadership is setting your team up for success.  Leaders recognize and leverage the talent of the team.  Developing the team to achieve at levels they never imagined is the sign of a true leader. Managers give little thought to developing the team, and focus more on controlling the tasks than individual growth, development, and change.

Leaders set the direction, managers are controlling about the task - If you are passionate and set the vision, then the direction naturally follows.  The team can carry this through to execution.  This is empowerment.  Managers care more about controlling each little task and can lose track of the big picture. 

Leaders make the tough call, managers avoid it - It isn't always easy being a leader.  You have to make the tough call on occasion.  Your team will respect that.  Managers tend to avoid conflict.  They are the ones who invented the "everyone gets a trophy" syndrome.  They won't give negative feedback, deliver bad news, etc.  In their mind it is often easier to keep everyone happy.  Leaders deal with it.

Organizations must be filled with leaders.  Remember, leaders are not required to have a title to lead.  The must have a vision, be passionate, rally the team, and sometimes make the tough calls.  No matter what your title, you can be a leader.  Where do you fit?

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