Are you a leader or a manager?
We use the words managing and leading interchangeably. However, these terms don’t mean the same thing. Leadership is different than management. The truth is, you likely do both, especially if you work in a smaller organization. Sometimes you are managing at one time and leading at a different time. On other occasions, you are doing both managing and leading almost simultaneously.
So why bother understanding the difference between management and leadership then?
The answer is simple. You need to develop your skills in both areas. Organizations put too much focus on developing only management skills. However, without developing your leadership skills as well, you’ll struggle to get where it is you want to be with your team. You’ll probably also feel more frustrated.
The easiest way for me to explain the difference to you is to think about a boat. A manager keeps the boat from tipping over side-to-side. A leader steers the boat forward. You need to do both if you are going to get anywhere.
Here are the differences between leadership and management in a nutshell:
Example #1 - Employee Development
MANAGING: Take for instance the development of employees. Booking regular supervision meetings with your staff members, sending employees on training, scheduling your people into the programs and ensuring annual performance reviews get completed all management tasks. These things are necessary for sure!
LEADING: In addition to those management tasks, a leader will have a conversation with the employee about their skills and talents. She will inspire them to utilize their strengths. A leader may move them into positions they are not completely ready for. The leader knows that stretching this person is a risk that will serve both the employee and program well, even though it will be a messy transition. However, the leader has a clear picture in her mind of what will be on the other side of those rapids, and they communicate that to the individual and the team.
Example #2 - Contract Changes
LEADING: When the funder announces modifications to the way contracts are being released, the leader already saw it coming. She has been actively scanning the horizon. In doing so, she knows how those changes will strategically fit that into where the program is. She is always aware how they can navigate the upcoming changes.
MANAGING: The manager in her will mitigate the risks to the existing program budgets. She will plan meetings with stakeholders. The manager role will have her prepare to communicate the changes to the team.
The differences: Management training
The training you need to be a great manager will be in learning to do things such as preparing and reading budgets and learning how to build strategic plans complete with goals and objectives and timelines. Management training will help you to write policies and follow procedures. This kind of training will ensure things get done in a way that keeps the program afloat.
The differences: Leadership Training
In contrast, the training you need as a leader will help you understand how to communicate to your team in a way that builds trust and motivates them. It will be about creating a vision and then learning to inspire people around you to come alongside you to achieve that vision, even when it seems risky, scary or impossible. Leadership training will help you steer the boat forward.
Leadership isn't about your name tag
Leadership isn’t a title or a role. Leadership is a way of being. It is the way you take action and the manner in which you communicate. When you are leading, your personality, style, vision, method, and character all serve to influence your followers. That influence sways them towards your future vision.
The mistake we often make
The mistake we often make is in thinking that we can learn management skills. This mindset error leads us to believe we either have the ability to lead or not. Certainly, our ability to lead is impacted by our genes, though our childhood experiences and as a result of our past career. There is not doubt that, that all shapes who we are. The key is in deciding what you will do with all of the cards that you have been dealt. That is where leadership training comes in.
Great leaders work on themselves
To become a great leader, you need to commit to personal development. Leadership starts with self-leadership. That means you understand what makes you tick, what is important to you and why it is central to your beliefs. Clarity on these fundamental drivers helps you craft your vision. The greatest of leaders then choose the character strengths they want to strengthen so they can inspire their followers to help them achieve that mission.
Traits of great leaders
Effective leadership is about integrity and trust. It is about the courage to take risks and the awareness to maintain your composure. When you lead most powerfully, you are serving others, with a vision, much bigger than yourself in mind. All of these are things that can be learned, honed and strengthened. You just have to do the work.
The work required to be one of the greats
Oh, and did I neglect to tell you…it takes a lot of work? Yes, leaders are in it for the long haul. That’s because, like Christopher Columbus, they know, that even though the majority may see it one way, that doesn’t make it so! The greatest of leaders push forward towards their vision, with a great team around them who trusts the leader, and believes in the same vision.
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