Managers Versus Leaders

Posted in : HR Updates on 10 August 2018
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered:

How often do we appoint staff into management positions without taking account of their leadership capability? Frequently managers are promoted based on technical ability but not necessarily their ability to lead, inspire or motivate people; in other words, the mark of a good leader.

The terms manager and leader are sometimes used interchangeably but is there a difference between the two and can a manager also be a leader? When I refer to leadership in this article I am specifically interested in transformational leadership; the type of leadership that inspires others to work towards a shared vision and in doing so puts people's needs first. Leadership responsibilities are one of the important functions of management alongside planning, organising and controlling. Leadership however does not necessarily belong to a position or a title. Leaders have followers; those that chose to do so, whereas often managers have staff who follow directions because they have to, not because they want to. Leaders tend to be visionary and go beyond merely setting goals. Managers focus on setting goals and then measure achievement towards these.

Other distinct differences between leaders and managers relate to how leaders innovate and disrupt the status quo. Steve Jobs summed this up perfectly when he stated how ''Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower''.

Leaders have their own unique brand and are authentic and transparent. Managers may have learned and copied their management style from others sometimes adopting questionable behaviours along the way. Leaders trust their team. With their vision shared and embedded, leaders effectively communicate this in a genuine manner. Good leaders also show enthusiasm which is strongly linked to morale. They instil positive energy and keep an upbeat attitude even if they need to fake it sometimes. Leaders are accountable, ethical and responsible but by practicing these leadership qualities, managers will be great leaders in no time!

But what can organisations do in the first place to encourage their managers to be effective leaders? Firstly rather than simply appointing people into management based on technical expertise, we need to be looking for those with a passion for supporting, developing and managing people. While they may have been really good at their old job, this is a completely different job now with a different set of skills, competencies and behaviours. We need a very clear job and person spec detailing the type of profile and leadership capabilities that will be required. We need to identify people who have ideas for successfully leading teams who display a real passion for motivating staff. And when we appoint the right person into that leadership position we need to nurture them. The basics such as having a job description and setting clear objectives for success in the first 3, 6 and 12 months in the role should be provided to the new recruit.

We also need to properly induct our leaders. They should be provided with leadership training. We can't assume that just because they were good at their old job, they will automatically know how to be a good leader. Very often new managers feel overwhelmed as they are not coached or supported and there is no interaction or time taken to find out if they need help to overcome problems. Why not provide a support network to managers through a monthly management group focused on discussing and sharing problems and challenges and working through them collectively? Quite simply, as employers we should be providing our leaders with exactly the same level of support that we expect them to be providing to their team members. We expect them to train, manage, support and monitor members of their team so at the very least they should be given the same in return. If we get these basics right then our leaders should be better placed to succeed, innovate and inspire rather than simply managing and controlling. To steal another of Steve Jobs inspirational quotes, ''Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do the things they never thought they could".

Useful reading:

How to manage your new first-time leaders 

What’s the Difference Between Leadership and Management? 

Management Vs. Leadership: Five Ways They Are Different 

This article is correct at 13/08/2018

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Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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