It has been my experience in the Army as well in the civilian world that everyone knows there is a difference between a manager and a leader. In the Army, I would always here there are NCO’s (non-commissioned officers) and there are leaders. This is the same concept that one just holds a title while the other holds responsibility for others. The featured picture is of a quote from Steve Jobs, which I feel, hits it on the nose. “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”
Manage Things, Lead People
In management, you learn to manage items, numbers, productivity, etc. These are valuable traits and you need to know how to manage your processes but there is more to it and that’s where leadership comes in. Without the people, the work cannot get done, and so it is imperative you get to know your team (see previous posts) and utilize their strengths and weaknesses for the operation. People are not just numbers, despite what some engineers I have met throughout my career might think, and if all you do is try to manage them as if they do not have their own thoughts, beliefs, feelings, lives, hobbies, etc, you will ultimately fail. Some people think it is just the Millennials that want to be recognized and heard but in reality it is everyone of all demographics. Everyone wants to feel validated in their work and know when they come to work, it is being valued. It is up to you as a leader, to know your team, encourage their growth, point out opportunities for them to improve, and validate their worth. It is one thing to hold the title as a manager but it is another, more challenging one, to hold the title as a leader. I do believe anyone can become a great leader but I never said it would be easy.
Not All Leaders are Managers
So, it should come as no surprise that there are leaders out there that are not in a management role. A lot of my leadership experience was in the Army as a lower enlisted private because I was expected to look after my brothers and sisters to my left and my right. The military does a great job of creating leaders, this was the major reason for me joining, and it is because they put so much personal responsibility and ownership on the lowest private to the highest officer. Some leaders are your peers or even your subordinates. They are the ones that have integrity, that come in with a positive attitude, and challenge their peers to achieve more. I feel the general public do not like these types of co-workers because they feel like, “Why should I listen to this knucklehead, he’s not even a manager?” This is not totally out of line but as a leader in a management role, you should encourage your employees to challenge one another and hold each other accountable because you cannot be everywhere at once as well as sometimes, not always, it matters more to your employees if they are getting peer reviewed. You will notice push back and that’s normal but do not hold back because otherwise, while you are absent, they will feel like they can get away with more and your operation will fail if left alone. This goes into a future post where I will discuss building up your subordinates into leaders.
In general, we can tell a leader from a manager and most of the time it is self-evident because a manager typically will be disengaged with their team, company, and their overall performance. A leader will be well engaged with their team, a real company person, and care about their overall performance even when they are on vacation. Now, they do not go hand in hand but this is what I have noticed in the course of my career thus far. Everyone has had at least one manager they have thought to themselves, “He’s just holding a position until he retires.” or “She’s just here so she doesn’t get fired.” These are not the types of leaders I neither want nor would consider leaders. A leader, in my opinion, cares about their people, not only on a professional level, but a personal one as well. This doesn’t mean you should go to their house all the time, be their drinking buddy, etc. but if they are in a personal bind, you should care, genuinely, and do everything possible for them within the scope of your job duties. A leader leads from the front and a manager manages from the rear. A leader teaches and guides while a manager tells you to just figure it out for yourself. There is a dichotomy of leadership though because you do need to do both but knowing when depends on you and your team.