Individuals who have been selected to manage a team are often faced with the most basic challenge. It can be summed up by this simple question: am I going to merely manage this role or will I be a leader?
Management is about getting things done. Leadership is about influencing the people doing it.
Being placed into a management role requires acceptance of a duty to perform. The work unit will have tasks, deadlines, deliverables, or, if you will, a mission. The manager must execute in order for the mission to be completed.
You can achieve good things ‘managing’ a team. You can make work assignments, establish and follow procedures, make good on delivery of assigned tasks, and generally get things to happen.
Data can be accumulated and analyzed for determination of success.
Systems, policies, procedures, and method can be managed. Resources can be budgeted. Waste can be accounted for and remedied as needed. Corrections and process change can happen.
People can be controlled and evaluated for performance. You can take disciplinary action as deemed necessary for poor performance.
Effective management can do all of these things.
The ability to move beyond mere management and become a true leader is a much bigger task. Leaders emerge in all walks of life. You do not have to be the CEO to be considered a leader. Even in the smallest recognized unit of the military, the squad, the person in charge is titled the squad leader.
Leadership means different things to different people around the world, and different things in different situations. For example, it could relate to community leadership, religious leadership, political leadership, and leadership of campaigning groups. I am focused on the Western model of individual leadership.
1. Creates an inspiring vision of the future.
In business, a vision is a realistic, convincing and attractive depiction of where you want to be in the future. Vision provides direction, sets priorities, and provides a marker, so that you can tell that you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve.
2. Motivates and inspires people to engage with that vision.
A compelling vision provides the foundation for leadership. But it’s leaders’ ability to motivate and inspire people that helps them deliver that vision.
3. Manages delivery of the vision.
Leaders must ensure that the work needed to deliver the vision is properly managed – either by themselves, or by a dedicated manager or team of managers to whom the leader delegates this responsibility – and they need to ensure that their vision is delivered successfully.
4. Coaches and builds a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision.
A leader will then ensure that team members have the necessary skills and abilities to do their job and achieve the vision. They do this by giving and receiving feedback regularly, and by training and coaching people to improve individual and team performance.
Leadership also includes looking for leadership potential in others. By developing leadership skills within your team, you create an environment where you can continue success in the long term. And that’s a true measure of great leadership.
Leadership brings together the skills needed to do these things.
The Big So What
Having said these things, it is safe to say :
Yes, managers go home at night and stay awake worrying about the next deadline or the project that is slipping, it feels like a life consuming chore.
Leaders do that too but add a higher plane of thinking about the bigger picture. The drive to achieve the vision keeps all other considerations in check.
Managers have a greater tendency to turn on and turn off their skill sets. Once they are away from work, the motivation to manage things at home or in the community can slack off.
Yet people who have proven themselves as leaders cannot turn off with their work habits. They see vision and opportunity everywhere. They are driven to stand up when a call goes out at church or in the community. Leaders find themselves naturally selected to help various causes of all kinds.
Leaders may not even seek new opportunity, but are tapped by those around them who recognize the innate ability to lead. The “I want that” mentality prompts others to ask a leader to stand in when a project needs a push.
The Academic Debate
For decades colleges and think tanks have debated the question: are leaders born or bred? Any institution set up for higher learning and development will naturally argue that anyone can be taught anything.
Candidly, I happen to subscribe to the notion that the best leaders have some inborn natural gifts. One can argue the Bible is pretty clear about the spiritual gifts people carry and that this is the reason it takes a community to thrive; i.e. no one person has all the gifts and talents to make everything happen. Likewise, not everyone can lead. Only a few are given the gift of leadership.
I know this is an extreme way of thinking. However, in all of my years in business, I can say the numbers support that thinking. By this I mean I have only worked with a rare few dynamic leaders; ones with amazing intuition and insight who see far beyond the current status.
I’ve worked for some amazing managers, yet they didn’t necessary fall into the realm of true leadership. They got things done with bright ideas and dogged determination to push through with boundless energy. AT the end of the day, sadly they weren’t especially inspiring leaders.
Question: Where do you think you fall: Manager or Leader? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
“The Uncommon Commodity” is available now on Amazon.