Management is about persuading people to do what they don’t want to do, while leadership is about persuading people to do things they never thought they could.”
This quote from Steve Jobs confirms that he believed there was a difference between managers and leaders. We do, too!
In this post, we’ll discuss the tendencies of managers and leaders, the consequences of a lack of leadership, key qualities of great leaders, and ways to become a more effective leader.
Managers and Leaders
A manager, according to Oxford, is “a person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company or similar organization.” It’s a title that bears a lot of responsibility and power.
A leader, according to Merriam-Webster, is someone who “leads, guides, or influences other people.” Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common objective.
The motivations and goals of a manager and a leader may be very different. Managers tend to be task driven, metric driven, rule followers, and risk controllers. Leaders tend to be mission-driven, people-driven, coaches, innovators, and risk takers.
Managers can be leaders, but not all managers are leaders. Some strong leaders may need to work on their management skills in order to be a more effective boss.
You don’t have to be a manager or supervisor to be a leader. Being a leader is less about the title and more about the goal. In fact, all employees can be leaders.
Every organization needs managers, just as every organization needs leaders. A manager is often responsible for the details or is in charge of the people handling the details, ensuring that projects get followed through to completion. A manager may say, “I understand that is a great idea, but have you thought about this, this, and this?” They aren’t saying this to be difficult or to stifle change, but to control risk. They are looking out for the potholes in the road that others might not have seen coming.
Often, an individual is required to be both a leader and a manager in order to be a great boss.
Consequences of lack of leadership
Having the title of a manager does not guarantee that whom or what is being managed will fall into line and deliver the expected results. The consequences of being a poor manager or boss are severe. According to the “State of the American Manager” Gallup report, “one in two employees have left their job to get away from their manager.” Wow. That’s serious!
Poor management can come in many forms. Bosses can be indecisive, use fear or anger to motivate employees, look out only for themselves and how they’re being perceived by their own manager, be a micromanager… The list is endless! Chances are, you can add many more examples to the list from your own experiences with bad bosses.
The problem with poor management is that it can have an extremely negative effect on employees’ morale, such as:
Employees feel like what they do is never good enough or doesn’t satisfy the expectations of their boss.
Management issues often become a common topic of conversation among employees. They may have discussions among themselves about how to work around the boss in order to accomplish what the employees deem most important.
Employees who don’t share a boss’s vision may become unattached to their work and the company. They may even get to the point of undermining what their engaged coworkers accomplish. We firmly believe that engaged employees are essential to the success of your business.
Eventually, this will affect the bottom line of your company.
As we agree on the qualities of poor bosses, let’s see if we can agree on the qualities of great leaders. Think about the greatest leader that you’ve known. Maybe it’s someone you’ve known personally, such as a parent, grandparent, or teacher. Maybe it’s someone that you’ve read about in history class, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, or Mother Teresa.
As you picture this person, think about the qualities that make them a great leader. What would you put on the list? Below are some of the key qualities we believe all great business leaders possess, but this list is by no means exhaustive.
Key Qualities of Great Leaders
A clear vision
It’s important to have a clear vision for the direction of the organization and how each employee can fit into the picture. If no big picture has been articulated, the manager cannot lead effectively, because they don’t know where they’re going themselves.
Both verbal and written communication must be clear, not just to you but to THEM as well. Give people CLEAR instructions about what you expect and make sure it aligns with the common vision. Remember that listening is a vital part of effective communication as well.
We love this quote from James Humes: “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”
The best leaders are driven by strong, ethical principles that are followed at all times. They lead by example and encourage others to do the same.
Great leaders are confident in themselves and in their people. This does not mean they are “cocky” or egotistical; this is a fine line that some leaders unknowingly cross, unfortunately. It means that they are confident in choosing the best path after weighing all the possible risks and options. Ultimately, it may turn out to be wrong. If so, then they need to practice integrity, honesty, accountability, and resilience as they correct course.
Great leaders fight the tendency to rely on the belief that the old way is the best way. They are creative in looking for new solutions, new opportunities, and new ways of doing business. They don’t use the excuse “that’s how we’ve always done it.”
Resiliency is the ability to quickly bounce back from tough times or setbacks. Think of yourself as a rubber band. When you are stretched to the limit of almost breaking, how quickly can you “snap back” into shape? What is your recovery period?
Resilience is a quality that has been tested repeatedly in the last year and a half. For example, when COVID restrictions forced restaurants to reduce their capacity or shut their dining rooms completely, managers found themselves with an unprecedented new reality. The best leaders used their creativity and resiliency to improve their “to-go” offerings and sign up new delivery services.
How to Become a Better Leader
Now that we’ve covered some of the qualities of great leaders, it’s only natural to next ask ourselves, “How can we all become better leaders?” And as we think about that question, we also consider the question, “Are leaders born or made?”
Maybe you’ve heard someone described as a natural born leader – someone who has instinctive abilities to inspire others to follow their lead.
A person’s experiences in their formative years can definitely equip them with certain strengths. However, just as we can learn speaking skills, writing skills, and accounting skills, for example, leadership skills can be learned and cultivated.
We believe that leaders are made, not born. Therefore, anyone can be a leader!
Although leadership is a learned skill, it’s not a “learn it once” kind of situation. It is continually learning and examining and refining that make a person become a better leader.
Studying and emulating the qualities of great leaders is a good place to start. With the key qualities of great leaders above, here are some tactical ways to develop these leadership qualities.
Set high standards and demonstrate them yourself.
Start with why. Once you know your “why,” it doesn’t become so difficult to make the commitments and spend the time needed to become a better leader.
For more info about finding your “why,” check out all the great work on this topic from Simon Sinek.
Develop a support system with other good leaders.
It’s been said that we become like the five people we spend the most time with. Are you spending time with people who you truly want to be like?
If you’re looking to enhance your support system, join a networking group or a local Chamber of Commerce to meet some great new people. If you feel you can’t make the regular time commitments that a networking group might require, then look no further than the Internet for help. There are more self-help and leadership development resources now than ever before. Find books (audio or physical), TED Talks, YouTube videos, or leadership seminars to learn from. Let the “experts” be your support system as you learn on your own timeframe.
Ask your co-workers, direct reports, and/or boss how they would rate your level of communication. Be open and willing to listen to their answers. Implement changes right away on areas that they suggest you might improve on.
If providing feedback to employees is challenging for you, check out our blog post for tips on how to handle difficult conversations. Consider taking a writing class or attending a local speaking group, such as Toastmasters International.
In conclusion, remember this great quote from Simon Sinek:
Leadership is not about being in charge, it is about taking care of those in your charge.”
If you would like an outside perspective or a leadership training seminar for your supervisors or managers, get in touch with us. We offer a free 30-minute consultation and we’d love to discuss how we might improve the management and leadership in YOUR organization!