Managers are made; leaders are born. Right?
Well, it isn’t always that simple. Leaders and managers share many traits and capabilities, but they differ in one fundamental way:
A manager appeals to your reason; a leader appeals to your spirit.
They’re both important business roles. The manager administers, maintains, and follows best practices. The leader innovates, develops, and originates the best practices. While managers deal with systems and protocol (often ignoring personalities and feelings), leaders focus on goals and the people striving to meet them (often ignoring the realities of the bottom line short-term goals).
You can learn to manage by learning to uphold the status quo at your workplace and in your industry. But what sets a true business leader apart from a business manager? Here are a few traits that make a leader:
A leader decides. A leader eats decisions for breakfast. He or she is not afraid to decide and will gladly do so when needed. The decisions won’t be hasty, though; they’ll come after considering the merits of alternative solutions.
A leader dreams. A leader always has a vision. This separates him or her from a garden-variety manager. A manager will set a goal for his team. Once the goal is met, he moves on. A leader, on the other hand, will not stop when the goal is met. His or her vision will push the team further.
Leadership has perspective. A leader always has a bird’s-eye view of what goes on and a clear sense of the big picture. This means understanding how the parts of the organization fit together and how to set a plan of action into motion. Broad goals are made up of smaller tasks, and while a good manager can make sure those tasks are done on time, a true leader makes sure they pave the way to the long-term destination.
Leaders promote teamwork. Managers like to talk, but they rarely want to listen. Leaders know that teamwork is not one-way. Inspire people to understand the value of their work and you’ll find that you’re encouraging cooperation and minimizing friction among workers. A little competition among coworkers can be healthy, but not when rivalry turns into animosity.
A leader encourages success in others. A leader is not threatened by the accomplishments of others. In fact, a leader encourages employees by training them to tackle bigger responsibilities and to take on challenging tasks. Praise your teammates for their good work and reward accomplishment when you can. The reward could be anything from a pat on the back or recognition in front of peers to a pay raise and promotion. You’re here to inspire your team’s confidence in you—and also to inspire their confidence in themselves.
Good leaders are good managers. But good managers may or may not be good leaders. They may know how to run a business or a department, but without vision they’ll never be true leaders. And that’s okay. Being able to mange people and their work will take you far in the corporate world. But having the vision to take the organization to bigger and better things is what sets a leader apart from just a boss.