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Are You a Leader or a Manager? Yes, there Is a Difference

Are you a manager or a leader? These two roles are sometimes talked about interchangeably, but the fact is they are two very different concepts and are composed of different personality traits and world views. By understanding if you are more of a leader than a manager or vice versa, you will get more out of your teams and goals will be clearer and easier to achieve. In the end, you will have a greater impact and be more effective managing your business.
Leader or Manager Differences

August 6, 2017

But how do you determine which one you are? Here are some insights into the differences between the two, starting with the mission of an organisation. Traditionally, the role of a manager is to run a team, a project, or a department. They have clear goals outlined and they need to make sure things run without a hitch.

In this way of thinking, employees are cogs in a machine. They can be replaced often and the thought process in the whole is greater than each of the parts or employees. Leadership, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite. Your team is the centre of the machine and everything else revolves around that. The machine is not steadfast and can and should evolve, sometimes even daily. With this view, people are seen as creative entities.

A leader and their team have a shared mission and they all know exactly what they must do to achieve it. But the mission has to be more than just making money and the job of a leader is to make sure the goal of the company is aligned with the goals of each individual employee.

The next area where managers differ from leaders is how self-aware they are. It used to be that managers led by the ‘do as I say’ method. This is no longer effective to motivate people. Today, leaders need to take a long look in the mirror to ensure they are not being controlled by their emotions.

The number one emotion that managers formerly used to get results was fear. With this way of thinking, they would yell at teams or put the fear of termination into them when they did something wrong. We now know that this does not work —an effective leader must have the confidence to lead with trust.

Speaking of trust, sometimes it is extremely difficult to blindly trust in your team at work. But that is exactly what leaders should do – trust completely in their teams. Trust them to do what they need to do to succeed, to do the right thing and to not let you down. You cannot micromanage your team, threaten them or dangle carrots in front of them.

Another thing that is essential in leadership is constant, lifelong learning, but not just for the leaders, for their teams as well. If employees are not comfortable with sharing new ideas, they might not vocalise them and hence you will never learn about a new idea, concept or way of doing things. When all the cylinders are firing together, then the learning flows.

Finally, a big difference between leadership and management is finding your voice and speaking your truth. This may be a fluffy concept that does not come with hard and fast rules but it is crucial to embrace it. There may be many cues telling us to keep quiet and not draw attention to ourselves as we may be seen as a troublemaker, but that is the big difference between managing over leading.

The roles of managers and leaders in some ways are similar but actually they are very different. In addition, there are certain strengths and weaknesses that are key for success in these roles. For example, managers are great at maintaining the current situation and adding constancy and order to a company’s philosophy.

However, they may not be as good at prompting change and visualising the future. On the other hand, leaders are very good at rousing up emotions, elevating expectations, and taking teams to new heights. Just like most people who are creative, leaders often suffer from hang-ups and have a propensity toward egotism and anxiety. In the end, whether you are a leader or a manager will affect the way you work.


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