Managers manage tasks; Leaders inspire people

In conversation, management and leadership often become lumped together – but it’s important to acknowledge the significant differences that exist between the two. As the title of this article suggests, management focuses on getting the job done. Leaders, on the other hand, have the ability to inspire people to perform above and beyond what they believe to be possible. The good news is: a manager can become a leader with the right set of tools. Let’s look at the two subjects and explore how a solid manager can become an excellent leader.

To speak in broad terms, a manager knows how to get the job done through people. They can develop clear plans – an enormous task in itself – and set an organizational framework that allows a group to operate efficiently. They assign responsibilities and then follow up, which naturally creates accountability. Follow these basic steps and you can likely be successful in a management role; but how might this same person level up and become a leader?

A leader paints a clear picture for the future of their organization. When all members of a team are united around a shared direction, they can more easily work together to achieve their goals. Really good leaders will speak often and with conviction about their vision for the future of the organization, not just about the week’s to-do list.

The same is true of values. Effective leaders communicate regularly about the values that are important to their team, creating an additional opportunity for all parties involved to coalesce around a common understanding. This way, team members can develop shared expectations for one another; and accountability does not come from management alone. Plus, the more these ethics and ideals are discussed, the less room there is for misunderstanding.

Leaders focus on recruiting and promoting talent because, at the end of the day, they know it is all about the people. Strong, well-trained, and motivated teams can conquer most any goal. But this involves a deeper commitment than simply assigning responsibilities to your people. Leaders are dedicated coaches, working continuously to develop talent for the needs of both today and the future. If you surround yourself with stars, you can become a star!

A manager is well-equipped to review performance measures and assess their team’s performance through this lens. A leader, on the other hand, reviews performance by listening and learning, spending time with as many team members as possible because they understand that those closest to the work know the most about it. They ask questions and are not afraid to challenge the status-quo, motivated by a never-ending quest to improve every possible aspect of the business.

Similarly, when there is a success to celebrate, leaders go out of their way to pat people on the back for their achievements. In my experience, recognizing performance is the number one motivator for a team. And in times of disappointment, leaders step up to take responsibility – they never blame others.

Now, let’s look to the future: perhaps you are a manager interested in moving from simply getting the job done to inspiring those around you. If you treat the leadership attributes I have described as a guide, you can separate yourself from the crowd. You will position yourself well to earn the respect of your team and your community, and grow your influence beyond day-to-day duties. Choose to walk the high road of leadership, and you will not regret it.

published Nashville Business Journal

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  1. Excellent, so clear and understanding, In plain words about actions that are effective. You won’t need a $20.00 book. Live it, practice it.

  2. I am a sole proprietor in my own businesses yet I find sharing your leadership articles with a few of my friends who remain in leadership positions to be a positive endeavor for them as well as myself. Thank you for sharing!

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