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Both managers and leaders are crucial to the success of any organisation, but rarely do people completely master the qualities of both. Every business needs people who will take responsibility and ensure the smooth running of operations. But how can you tell if you’re a manager or a leader? There are several core differences and here are a few questions with responses that can help you decide.
Do you have followers or subordinates?
A) Managers rely on control and oversee their subordinates, delegating tasks to those who work for them. They always expect results in return and subordinates are motivated by a reward, whether that’s money or a promotion. A good manager will always give effective recognition and praise to their employees and tie it into the task at hand. They will let their staff know how they pushed the team forward and how their work has contributed to the objective.
B) On the other hand, leaders have followers. A leader doesn’t have people below them, but instead people who work beside them. When you have followers, they will be motivated by your vision and strive for success. Leaders don’t focus on telling people what to do and how to do it, but instead they focus on working beside their followers to build their brand and achieve their goals.
Are you a visionary or task-orientated?
A) Managers are more concerned with completing short-term goals and handling immediate tasks. They often have a short-range view, focusing on how to execute strategies and meet deadlines as quickly as possible. A contingency approach to management is based on the idea that there is no ‘one size fits all’ method. Managers focus on the situation at hand, taking the best course of action to the current situation.
B) While managers are more task-orientated, leaders think about the bigger picture. They have a vision for the organisation and are more concerned about the direction of the business. If you’re a leader, you don’t dwell too much on short-term tasks, but rather how they contribute to and effect the overall vision. Leadership expert Steve Radcliffe, breaks down leadership into three simple concepts: future, engage and deliver. He argues that the best leaders know what they care about, what’s important to them and they know exactly what they lead for.
Do you focus on the system or the people?
A) Managers are focused on perfecting the system and the various parts of the organisation. They make sure that everyone can adapt and work within the system. As managers are task orientated, their primary concern is getting things done in an efficient manner. An exceptionally good manager achieves a productive, efficient workforce that keeps the system running smoothly. If you’re a good manager, you will have built solid relationships with your staff, but your main focus will always be on the performance and organisation of the system.
B) Focusing on team members is one of the key skills of a leader. All leaders focus on employee relationships and the ability to understand and relate to people. They create systems suitable for the people and are willing to change their strategy if needed, to get the best of out their team. According to renowned leadership theorist John Adair, all good leaders must follow an “Action-centred leadership” approach. What this means is that you must strike the balance between achievement of the task, the group of people performing the task, and each individual member of involved in the task.
Are you more concerned with sustainment or growth?
A) With such a high concern for efficiency and completing short-term goals, managers aren’t necessarily focused on growth. Instead, they put emphasis on sustaining what the company has already built. Managers understand and accept that drastic changes aren’t always best for the organisation. They stick with what works, avoiding problems and minimising risk. A great manager always refines the system and structures to make them better.
B) A leader is someone who initiates change. If you’re a leader, you are always looking forward. Leaders want to keep pushing to the next level and are willing to take risks to get there. They are focused on innovation and have a forward-thinking mentality. The only way to consistently build growth is by becoming a transformational leader. This concept was first introduced by leadership expert James McGregor Burns, later developed further by Bernard M. Brass. He believes that to be a transformational leader, you must manage the delivery of your vision, motivate people to believe in your vision and build trusted relationships. So with this in mind, transformational leaders can more effectively create growth.
Looking at these traits, you should be able to understand and recognise whether you are a manager or a leader. The best bet is to try and take the best parts of both and form your own approach, ensuring the job gets done while creating great relationships with your team. For a team to truly work it needs different players for different roles – a team full of leaders may have grand ideas but they won’t get them done without some manager figures focused on the short term, and vice versa.
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