Leaders vs. Managers

leadersLately it seems that a lot of my work has been about the role or definition of a manager vs. a leader. I was surprised that there are as many interpretations of the roles as there are definitions in Webster’s Dictionary. You need both, and sometimes you can be both, however there is a distinct and important difference between them.

Here are a couple of definitions that are closest to what I’m talking about:

Manager: one that manages: as a person who conducts business or household affairs
Leader: a person who has commanding authority or influence

Managers are managing people, things and processes. They conduct business and make sure things get done. They are the accountability backstop, the one who has responsibility for whatever the task is at hand.

A leader is someone who inspires people to do something, take action on something, or be and think a certain way. People are inspired to follow vs. just get something done because they are told to. Leaders are often called mentors and people learn from them. They influence their teams to become better than they are today.

Leaders are not always popular. They have to make the hard decisions, some of which people don’t like, but ultimately leaders take the bigger picture or greater good into consideration. Lincoln was an outstanding leader. He inspired others – not necessarily to do what was in their best interest in the moment, but what was in their best interest for the future. Leaders are almost always grounded in their personal values. They take them very seriously. They are sacrosanct. The roles they take on, the things they gravitate to, will always be a reflection of the values they hold.

Managers help people get things done. Leaders help them think about the right things to do. What are you? Are you leading your team or managing your team – or both? We don’t have a good barometer for how we are viewed by others so we need to ask. Lincoln asked lots of questions, told stories to help people understand his ideas and open up different thinking.

The funny thing about leaders is that they don’t need to manage – people will manage themselves with a good leader. People don’t need someone watching over them to make sure things are done right. They will make sure they are right because they are inspired to do so. We are all capable of making decisions for ourselves, and of self-managing, it’s just that we are not always given the opportunity.

What if…you let people solve their own problems in your company?
What if…you were open to new ideas or ways of doing things?
What if…you lead by questions and inquiry rather than by telling?

You might be a leader.

I guarantee it’s a lot more fun than managing. Let go of the ropes and see what happens through influence, inspiration and real leadership.