Not All Managers are Leaders

31 Jan

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – – John Quincy Adams

I’ve always been fascinated by the difference between a manager and a leader. Actually, fascinated may not be the right word; let’s say that I’ve been perplexed and often frustrated. I think the genesis of my frustration is a potential fallacy that a manager should be a leader. However, anecdotal evidence has proven that just because someone manages people or departments does not mean they are leaders. Many managers are not effective leaders.

So let’s put aside all of the fancy research and management/leadership style models and simplify the concept. What differentiates a manager from a leader?

What is a Manager?
Managers have subordinates. A manager executes the plans, decisions, and goals driven from upper management. A person becomes a manager by virtue of his position. The followers are generally the manager’s employees. Followers follow the manager by default of management and supervisory hierarchy.

What is a Leader?
Leaders have followers. A leader is someone who influences the behavior and work of others in the group’s efforts towards achievement of specified goals in a given situation. A person becomes a leader on basis of his personal qualities. The followers of the most effective leaders tend to follow by choice. Followers have bought into the leader’s vision, personality, and most importantly, feel a respect for the leader’s knowledge and abilities.

What is the Nexus?
In my opinion, the ideal situation is when a manager is also a leader. Reality, it doesn’t always work out that way. Often, managers move through the “system” by navigating the designated ladders of professional ascension within a company or organization. Sometimes it is merely the result of seniority and company tenure.  And, their ascension may not be a reflection of their leadership ability, but a reflection of their management ability. Whether that’s a bad thing I’ll leave to your discretion.

In contrast, a leader is often chosen for his/her ability to move people, to move platforms, to facilitate change. As such, a leader provides direction, vision, and motivation. A leader is less concerned with ruffling the feathers of others since his followers tend to be believers. They trust that the leader is driven by a shared success and they want to be a part of that success. In contrast to a manager’s ascension, a leader’s ascension from within an organization is often a result of their successes, both measurable and intangible. The confidence others demonstrate for the leader elevates their corporate capital. Do all leaders make good managers?

Dilemma
When a manager is not an effective leader it often creates a barrier to decision-making thus hindering forward movement. Over the years, I’ve learned that more is often lost to indecision than the wrong decision. A manager lacking leadership skills frequently suffers paralysis by analysis. They spend so much time considering alternate options (fearful of making the wrong decision) they relent to inaction. Subsequently, their inaction and/or hesitancy result in a loss of confidence by subordinates creating future barriers to success.

Are you a leader, a manager, or both?

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