“Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.” John Kotter
Last week I received a call from Amy, who works for a small company where she was a department head. She was so good at her job, that when the owner retired he put Amy in charge, and she became President of the company. Unfortunately, although Amy was an outstanding manager and ran her department smoothly, she is having a difficult time being the leader of the company. Amy’s job now is to lead her team, and she has discovered that she has no idea how to go about it.
Many people experience the same dilemma as Amy, who thought that leading and managing are the same thing. The reality is that they are quite different.
How are leading and managing different?
A manager/supervisor is usually a person in a designated position. Managers have a job or title that lets others know they are in charge. They are the people who make things happen and get things done. Managers are usually well educated in their field and have a good understanding of their area of expertise. The ability to manage well is a ‘left-brain activity’, involving structure and organization. Managers take the leader’s vision and organize whatever needs to be done to make the vision a reality. They designate, delegate and structure systems and people.
What is a leader?
The leader is the person who provides the vision for the future. S/he is aware of the possibilities and can see where the organization is headed, and then inspires others to come along. It’s not necessary for a leader to have detailed knowledge of how things are done. Instead the leader has the vision of the destination and what things will be like when they get there
A good leader also respects the people who follow him/her, and empowers them to do their jobs. The leader knows that his/her job is to support his/her people so they can do what needs to be done to move the organization towards the vision.
When Amy was a manager her job was to get things done, so when she became President she continued to organize, structure and manage people and systems. The result was that her department heads felt undermined and devalued, and the staff was confused about who was in charge. Morale dropped drastically and two of her managers quit.
That’s when she called me, and we decided to look at how she can lead rather than manage.
Does this sound familiar? Are you acting as a manager when your job is to lead, or trying to lead when management is what is needed? Does this leave you frustrated and your employees confused?
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