What does it take to be a true organization leader…one whose business leadership makes a clear difference in the operations and outcomes of a company or other organization? And do you have what it takes?
Managers play a major role at many levels in an organization; however, I think it’s important to note that there are differences between being a manager and being a leader. Not all managers are leaders, and some leaders aren’t managers–at least, not officially.
In exploring this topic as a matter of personal and professional interest, I came across an article on TheWallStreetJournal.com that directly speaks to the distinctions. Titled “What is the Difference Between Management and Leadership?,” it says that “leadership and management must go hand in hand. They are not the same thing. But they are necessarily linked, and complementary. Any effort to separate the two is likely to cause more problems than it solves….The manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate. The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate.”
Obviously, there’s a lot more to the article than I can reference here, but you can probably detect one of the differences in the last part of the quote above. Management is viewed as more what I would call structural–useful functions, etc.–while leadership is presented as something beyond that–a bit more vague or undefined, if you will, but no less important because of its less structured focus.
I belong to a LinkedIn group named Top Leaders/Executives (whose members range from senior managers to C-level executives). Recently a group member, Michelle Tenzyk, conducted a survey among the members as to one word they felt marked an essential element for successful global leaders.
The resulting post, titled “Global Requirement for Top Leaders in One Word,” shared Tenzyk’s findings with the group. It presented the top 5 responses, in declining order based on number of votes, which were:
According to an article I found on Inc.com, it’s not likely that you can be both. The article by Curt Richardson, titled “Are You a Leader or a Manager? There’s a Difference,” states that “the terms leadership and management are often used interchangeably, but there is a huge difference between a leader and a manager. Leaders aren’t always managers and vise versa [should have been “vice versa”]. It is a rare individual that is both of these things. They have very different skill sets, both critical to success at a high-growth business.”
Richardson’s article comes down firmly on the side of “no, you can’t really be both.” For example, he says that “leaders have a unique ability to rally employees around a vision. Because their belief in the vision is so strong, employees will naturally want to follow them….Managers, on the other hand, are more adept at executing the vision in a very systemic way and directing employees on how to do so.”
He also makes the point that if people can do both (sort of), one aspect or the other is not their core strength. However, in some cases you might need to be both–to the best of your ability–until other resources become available that will enable you to focus on what you do best and probably enjoy the most. If you want to be a difference-making leader, as the title of this post asks, you need to look at where your core strengths lie and determine whether you do, in fact, have what it takes to do that.