The statement, “Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right,” is often quoted to make a distinction between managing processes and leading people. The obvious implication of this statement is that leadership is about always doing the right thing.
Leaders earn their role; it is not a title to be given. When you are promoted into a role where you are managing people, you don’t automatically become a leader. There are important distinctions between managing and leading people. Here are some of the most important differences that set leaders apart:
1. Leaders create a vision, managers create goals.
Leaders paint a picture of what they see as possible and inspire and engage their people in turning that vision into reality. They think beyond what individuals do. They activate people to be part of something bigger. They know that high-functioning teams can accomplish a lot more working together than individuals working autonomously. Managers focus on setting, measuring, and achieving goals. They control situations to reach or exceed their objectives.
2. Leaders are change agents; managers maintain the status quo.
Leaders are proud disrupters. Innovation is their mantra. They embrace change and know that even if things are working, there could be a better way forward. And they understand and accept the fact that changes to the system often create waves. Managers stick with what works, refining systems, structures, and processes to make them better.
3. Leaders are unique, managers copy.
Leaders are willing to be themselves. They are self-aware and work actively to build their unique and differentiated personal brand. They are comfortable in their own shoes and willing to stand out. They’re authentic and transparent. Managers mimic the competencies and behaviours they learn from others and adopt their leadership style rather than defining it.
4. Leaders take risks, managers control risk.
Leaders are willing to try new things even if they may fail miserably. They know that failure is often a step on the path to success. Managers work to minimize risk. They seek to avoid or control problems rather than embracing them.
5. Leaders are in it for the long haul, managers think short-term.
Leaders have intentionality. They do what they say they are going to do and stay motivated toward a big, often very distant goal. They remain motivated without receiving regular rewards. Managers work on shorter-term goals, seeking more regular acknowledgment or accolades.
6. Leaders grow personally, managers rely on existing, proven skills.
Leaders know if they aren’t learning something new every day, they aren’t standing still, they’re falling behind. They remain curious and seek to remain relevant in an ever-changing world of work. They seek out people and information that will expand their thinking. Managers often double down on what made them successful, perfecting existing skills and adopting proven behaviours.
7. Leaders build relationships, managers build systems and processes.
Leaders focus on people – all the stakeholders they need to influence to realize their vision. They know who their stakeholders are and spend most of their time with them. They build loyalty and trust by consistently delivering on their promise. Managers focus on the structures necessary to set and achieve goals. They focus on the analytical and ensure systems are in place to attain desired outcomes. They work with individuals and their goals and objectives.
8. Leaders coach, managers direct.
Leaders know that people who work for them have the answers or can find them. They see their people as competent and are optimistic about their potential. They resist the temptation to tell their people what to do and how to do it. Managers assign tasks and provide guidance on how to accomplish them.
9. Leaders create fans, managers have employees.
Leaders have people who go beyond following them; their followers become their raving fans and fervent promoters – helping them build their brand and achieve their goals. Their fans help them increase their visibility and credibility. Managers have staff who follow directions and seek to please the boss.
When one is appointed a manager in an organization, the person needs to aspire and develop to become a leader. People are inspired when they trust their leaders and are mobilized by common goals. In becoming a leader, every leader must continuously sharpen his or her leadership capabilities for optimal personal and team performance.
Managers need to commit to becoming leaders. Many studies show leadership qualities such as assertiveness, adaptability, intelligence, and conscientiousness as the most important qualities in a leader. Additionally, effective leaders are positive, empowering, and inspiring. A Manager need to learn how to become a leader and work towards becoming a stronger and more effective leader.