“Leaders” and “managers” are both bosses; they have staff working underneath them, and ultimately their job is to make sure that their teams are adding value to the organisation and operating to peak efficiency and productivity.
But in the modern workplace, the “manager” has become something of a dirty word; it implies a boss that isn’t able to achieve true leadership. It’s someone who isn’t keeping up with the pace of the modern workplace environment, and critically, a “manager” isn’t seen as particularly inspiring – especially towards millennials.
So, what are the character traits that define a “leader”, rather than a “manager?” There are four character traits in particular, and everyone who has the responsibility for managing teams of people should consider developing these traits in order to be respected as a true leader within the organisation.
Leaders focus on people, not work
Running a team is a highly accountable job; the head of a team or business unit is accountable to their own bosses, right up to the CEO of an organisation, who is in turn accountable to the directors of the business, who are accountable to the shareholders. In each leadership position, the manager type will focus on the task or project that need to be done. They’ll set budgets, KPIs, timeframes and so on. They will focus on the work involved in a task.
A leader will understand that it’s people that get a task done, and if the people are in high spirits, working well together, and proficient in the work that they’re doing, they’ll execute it to a far higher degree, be far more innovative and creative, and exceed the goals and expectations of the project. So instead of fixating on KPIs and reporting, a leader will instead concentrate on motivating his/her people, developing their skills, and working in a transparent manner.
Managers remind you that they’re the boss, but leaders are your friend
Authority is important to a manager. They’re appointed to direct and focus staff, and in order to maintain that authority, they need to remind the employees that they are the bosses. They’re not there to make friends, they’re there to get the job done.
Leaders often emerge from their peer groups, and is an individual who influences, rather than dictates. A leader’s team gets its work done out of respect for the vision of the leader and their desire to be part of it, rather than doing what they’re told because a manager demands it. Two-way communication is a big part of a leader’s style, and in being willing to listen to the ideas of the employee, there’s a flatter structure to hour a leader works. The ready exchange of ideas means that the employee will also feel more comfortable in admitting their mistakes in the drive to be innovative and creative, whereas an employee under a manager will be frightened to step out and try something that isn’t expressly approved by the manager.
Managers micro-manager, leaders trust
If you work for a manager, you’ll feel like you’ve constantly got someone looking over your shoulder, making sure you remain on task. A manager’s style is to delegate tasks to employees, and then monitor how the team executes on those directives. This leads to an environment where accountability is high and jobs generally will be done on time (or problems will be noticed and resolved before they become critical), but it’s also a stifling, uncomfortable environment for the employee.
A leader will also delegate tasks, but then trust completely in the individual’s ability to get the work done. A leader makes themselves available for employees to come to them for guidance when needed, but doesn’t monitor or try and control the employee, instead trusting in their knowledge, abilities, and sense of responsibility to get a task done. This leads to far greater innovation, as an employee is able to solve their task according to what they see as the best path forwards. There’s also less paperwork and processes to work through, so the team tends to work more efficiently.
Leaders take risks to the benefit of the entire organisation
A manager is, themselves, a person that follows orders give from their bosses. A manager’s speciality is in taking another person’s idea and completing it as a project. They don’t take risks, and trust in stability and the status quo. As a result, a manager delivers reliable, but uninspired results, which won’t necessarily drive the organisation forward.
Leaders, meanwhile, excel in taking risk and challenging those around them to think creatively. The leader’s strength is in removing inhibitions within his or her team, and then taking their contributions and including them into the overall package. With innovation being so critical for the future of companies, it is only the leader that can motivate the entire team beyond simply following orders to really pushing boundaries.
Most of the really good “bosses” within an organisation are a mixture of leadership types; they aim to motivate and encourage staff, while also keeping enough oversight into projects to ensure that they’re remaining on track, and that each staff member is pulling his or her own weight. However, for many “bosses” it is the leadership skills that really need developing, because it’s a newer approach to business management and thinking, and the kind of personality traits that exist in leaders don’t necessarily come naturally to people.