Would you describe your boss as a leader or manager? If you are the boss, would you describe yourself as a leader or manager? Odds are, if you are the subordinate, you might describe your boss as a manager, but if you are the manager, you might describe yourself as the leader. Does it really matter, is there a difference? Webster’s defines a manager as a person responsible for controlling all or part of a company, a person who controls the activities of an employee, a person who is in charge. They define a leader as a person who leads or commands a group, a person who is the principal player in a group. As the person in charge, which would we rather be?
I think we would all agree that we would rather be a leader than a manager, and we would rather work for a leader than a manager. So what are some of the key behaviors that a leader should cultivate which will cause employees to actually want to work for them? The first one is easy to understand, but sometimes hard to do. Learn to listen to your employees, really listen. They are the closest person to the task you ultimately have responsibility for, so they likely have the best perspective on how to best accomplish the task. Listen to what they have to say about it. By listening as opposed to telling, you will better understand aspects of the task that they struggle with because of lack of knowledge, improper tools or difficult conditions. You may ultimately disagree with their assessment, but if you dismiss their feedback out of hand, you will start to lose their trust. You may also learn something that can help you make the task easier and more efficient for your employee (s).
Instead of telling your employees about a task, show them or let them know why it is important. When they are connected to the bigger picture of a task, they become more committed to it and in seeing it done correctly. There is no better time for this then after a mistake has been made. How many times have we made a mistake on the job, only to be yelled at by our boss about it? How did that make us feel? If you are a leader, you use mistakes by your employees as training opportunities. If someone never makes a mistake, they are not trying hard enough. Mistakes are normal because people are human. A mistake is only bad if we do not learn from it and implement corrective action.
As a manager, your focus is to control a group of people in order to achieve a desired output of work. As a manager, you are driven by power and control. Managers often not only plan out the work to be done, but they also want to tell employees how the work should be accomplished. When something doesn’t get accomplished in the proper quantity, quality, or timeframe, a manager’s focus is on blame – often making sure it does not reflect on them. A manager’s focus is typically short-term in nature, this week’s production, this quarter’s goal etc. A manager sees their job as conforming to the rules as they understand them, and making sure that everyone abides by them. Managers are typically more task focused than people focused.
As a leader however, your focus is to influence, motivate and empower others to achieve a collectively desired goal. As a leader, you are driven by seeing others succeed and grow while achieving organizational benchmarks. A leader uses their influence to motivate others. Instead of telling their employees what needs to be done and how it is best accomplished, leaders set a tone by letting their employees see the big picture of how their collective tasks fit in to the whole. Leaders encourage their employees and are not bound by past precedent. Leaders have a longer-term focus, and see mistakes as an opportunity for learning, not for blame. Leaders find ways to motivate and inspire others, and are typically more people focused in how they accomplish a task. So, are you a leader or manager?