Manager or Leader: Where Do You Fall?

The terms “manager” and “leader” often go hand-in-hand, but the reality is, in many ways these two terms couldn’t be more different from one another.

Are you a leader or a manager?

Yes, both terms refer to someone who’s in charge of employees or an organization in some capacity, but that’s where the similarities often end.

This doesn’t mean that one is necessarily negative and one is positive, but it’s important to understand where you are in terms of being a manager, a leader or both, and then understand where your personal deficiencies may lie in order to improve your own performance, the performance of your employees, and the overall performance of your organization.

Mind vs. Method

While there are countless different interpretations of what it is to be a manager versus a leader, one of the common schools of thoughts relates to the idea that managers are working based on skill and craft, while leaders operate from a particular mindset, and a set of traits that set them apart.

You can also look at it this way—management is something that’s primarily focused on external components, while leadership is something that’s internalized.

Why You Need Managers and Leaders

As mentioned at the start of the article, it’s not necessarily a negative thing to be a manager instead of a leader and vice versa, but successful  organizations need both, and many people believe the best possible situation is to have people in organizations that are both managers and leaders. The skill-sets and mindsets required to be both can be complementary to one another.

Managers tend to understand the importance of output, numbers and metrics from a business-centric standpoint. On the other hand, leaders tend to be the people who inspire and motivate employees. Leaders are really the people who set the tone, the culture and the direction of a company, whereas managers make sure those things are properly executed.

Transforming From Manager to Leader

Maybe you’ve realized you’re all about the numbers and the results, and you’re more of a manager. Perhaps you have the skill-set in place to be a great manager, but you’re lacking the leadership skills you need to carry your organization forward.

Can you learn to become a leader?

Many experts believe so.

Consider the following tips that will allow you to still leverage your managerial skills, but also tap into your leadership potential:

  • Get to know the people who work for you. Managers tend to look at their talent as little more than charts and numbers, but leaders get to know them, understand their specific skills and abilities, delve into what they can bring to an organization, and value face-to-face interactions with employees. Take the time to do these things and you’re likely to discover untapped potential and new ways to direct your talent management strategy. As mentioned, a key component of leadership is being able to inspire, and you certainly can’t inspire your employees if you don’t really know them and understand what makes them tick.
  • Be forward-thinking. Don’t just focus on the day-to-day operations and short-term success—look at the bigger picture. It sounds cliché, but looking at long-term goals and having a defined vision of what your company’s future should look like are things that are going to make you a leader. Without long-term vision, you’re never going to be able to inspire others and help them see themselves as part of something greater.
  • Don’t try to avoid failure like the plague—it can have value. Failure is a necessary part of growth and success, but it’s something managers tend to despise, passionately. Instead of always trying to avoid failure, look at the failings of your team, or even yourself, and utilize them as ways to grow and discover new opportunities.

What do you see as the primary differences between managers and leaders, and can leadership be something that’s learned or developed?

Read related articles:

Succession Planning – It Begins with Understanding Leadership

The Pygmalion Effect How Leaders and Managers Can Create a Virtuous Cycle of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

October 9, 2014   Updated :February 4, 2016   leader, leadership, manager, talent management   

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