The kind of people you most want in your company aren’t interested in being managed. What employees really want is to be led. So which one are you… a manager or a leader?

This isn’t about a title. Residing in the C-suite does not make you a leader, just as having a management role doesn’t prevent you from being a leader. Don’t get me wrong. There is a time and a place for management. It just isn’t with your people.

Processes need to be managed; people need to be led.

If you have staff in need of minimum-standard management, it’s time to find some new people. Likewise, if you have top executives providing minimum-standard leadership, well, they need to go as well.

The difference between a manager and a leader

To boil the differences down to one point, it would be this:

Managers focus on making sure tasks get checked off and minimum standards are achieved. Leaders focus on developing people and positions to ensure their full potential is recognized.

It’s important to remember that managers are often put in place with no real knowledge of how to lead. When this happens, they default to their experience of being managed. But that doesn’t mean things can’t change.

The first step to turning managers into leaders is to recognize the behaviors that identify each group.

What managers do:

  • Focus on the short term: what needs to get done this week, today, or this very second
  • Point fingers. Not only to direct people, but also to assign blame when things go wrong
  • View employees as units of production rather than people with feelings and ideas
  • Value time spent in the office and obedience over flexibility and results
  • Lead with fear and attempt to use it as motivation for the team
  • Stick to the plan at all costs, even when it’s clearly not working
  • Say things like “But we’ve always done it that way!” and “Why re-invent the wheel?”
  • Refuse to delegate or let go of certain things due to lack of trust
  • Hover nearby because they are afraid things won’t get done otherwise
  • Spend a whole lot of time talking and very little time listening

What leaders do:

  • Create a vision for the organization and communicate how each team member fits in
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm for company goals and values and generate it in others
  • Take responsibility and communicate openly, during good times and bad
  • Listen to concerns, ideas and feedback in addition to providing these things as needed
  • Inspire confidence in leadership and build trust in employees and staff at all levels
  • Inspire action rather than creating bureaucratic inaction
  • Give team members the freedom they need to take ownership and thrive
  • Coach people through challenges and help them find new levels of success
  • Let teams devise creative solutions instead of handing them a “corporate approved” fix
  • Allow themselves, and those around them, the luxury of failing from time to time as they challenge themselves to reach new heights

When you read these lists, are there certain managers and leaders in your organization that jump to mind?

In looking over the qualities that make a good leader, were you reminded of some your best teachers, bosses, and mentors? Hopefully, you have some fond memories of how their leadership helped shape you, both as a career professional and a person. You do? Great! Now quit managing your team to death and give them some reasons to remember your life-changing leadership.

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