Are You a Manager or a Leader?

What makes a manager versus a leader? This question has been debated in college classrooms, business conference rooms, and on golf course greens for many years. I find myself engaged in this conversation far too often, though in my experience, there is a clear explanation differentiating between the two roles.  

The most important difference between managers and leaders is how they motivate people. Generally speaking, managers use their given authority to facilitate action.  They delegate labor to those they supervise and attempt to keep everyone focused and on task.  Managers are known for telling employees what to do, how to do it, and when to have it completed.  But what do managers do to directly and permanently influence those around them?  Are their employees learning positive work habits and accomplishing goals or are they simply going through the motions to appease management and meet the bare minimum of expectations?  It seems as though managers create professional environments driven by their jurisdiction and not necessarily by their perceptiveness.          

Contrary to the aforesaid, leaders use influence to inspire others to follow them.  They focus on explaining the “why” of a task, making the literal action much less important than the fundamentals behind it.  When leaders are able to bring people to a new level of understanding, to go beyond the expected duty; they are instilling professional behaviors that are long lasting and genuine.  True leaders do not have subordinates, they have followers. Since following is a voluntary behavior, a person cannot lead others by telling them what to do. Instead, they need to appeal to the hearts and minds of their employees and generate an authentic level of mutual trust and respect.  This type of leader/laborer relationship will cultivate a work environment that is positive, productive, and persevering. 

John C.  Maxwell once said, “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”   When explaining the difference between managers and leaders what stands out is a leader’s ability to connect with those they are guiding.  Leaders are still people of authority, but their power transpires in a motivational way so that their employees admire and respect them.  While managers lean more on the side of dictatorship, leaders aim to inspire their followers to want to perform their jobs to their highest abilities.  

So, in a world where you cannot be both, are you a manager or a leader?  

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