Are You a Leader or a Manager?

Are You a Leader or a Manager?

"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader it's all about growing others." --Jack Welch

Everyone who has a job has a boss or manager, but does everyone have a leader? You never hear people complain about leaders, but every day someone somewhere complains about their boss or manager. First, leadership is action, not position. Just because someone is in a role of control does not mean they are a leader.

All managers have to do some leading, and all leaders have to do some managing. The best leaders are typically poor managers, and the best managers are typically poor leaders. Finding the right balance for the job is what is really important. Every enterprise needs a mix of leaders and managers. The challenge is to assess and position individuals correctly within an organization based on its needs. It is no surprise that the best companies do this best!

First, what is a manager? A manager is a person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company or similar organization. A manager is responsible for setting goals. A good manager gets employees to set goals and make sure that employees hit those goals. If employees fail to do so, the manager's job is on the line. This can cause some friction and stress in the relationship between a manager and employees. A manager's responsibility is to legislate and regulate. A manager relies on control - control of every situation at all times: budgets, hiring and firing, reprimanding, making lists, problem-solving, following strict procedures, following strict rules, establishing agendas, allocating resources, planning, facilitating, establishing rules and procedures, and controlling potential risks.

Poor managers tend not to want to "shake the ship." They conform to the rules and standards set up by the company. They are not thinkers, but doers. Managing encompasses the use of company resources and good execution. Managers tend to manage in environments where there isn't much change and stick to the status quo. Managers tend to be reactive and avoid conflict. They stick to rules and procedures and are uncomfortable working outside of those boundaries. Employees are unable to make empowered decisions because they are being managed, not led. Managers often do not work well with others. They implement their own guidelines and expect others to follow. Their main objective is hitting goals. Managers are guided by numbers and outcomes. Their main goal is to keep the machine moving along.

Leadership has been defined as a process through which a person influences and motivates others to get involved in accomplishing a particular task. A leader is completely different from a manager. A leader motivates, coaches, inspires, copes with change, has relationships with others, develops people, fixes breakdowns, gives credit, genuinely wants people to succeed, creates and seeks opportunities, challenges the status quo, innovates, originates, and does the right thing - not just does things right. Again, the list goes on. Leaders are rare. Unfortunately, the majority of people will never work for a leader. Leaders are not managers and managers are not leaders. Leaders are cheerleaders and don't mind other people getting the credit.

Leadership is the essential tool for commitment from employees. Without a leader, employees lose hope, and their commitment to the company is drastically reduced. It's not that they don't want to do better, it's that they have no one to inspire them or encourage them to do so. Companies today hug the philosophy of management. They have forgotten what leadership is. Without leadership, all else is lost. You can't win a war on management alone. You need a leader to inspire an organization to go beyond what they thought possible and to believe it is possible.

If you want to create a service culture, build leaders by helping managers develop their leadership skills. In most firms we are dependent on people, not machines, to deliver the product or service. They are fragile human beings who want more than a paycheck. They thrive on recognition. Employees work harder and more effectively for leaders than managers and become more indispensable and extraordinary.

Great leaders move up. Learn how to become a leader. Develop your entire leadership team from top to bottom.

John Tschohl is founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis. Described by USA Today, Time, and Entrepreneur as a "customer service guru," he has written several books on customer service and has developed more than 25 customer-service training programs distributed worldwide. His strategic newsletter is available online. Contact him at or (952) 884-3311.

Published: November 19th, 2014

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