Managers are often task-oriented, and not necessarily focused on their employees. Leaders on the other hand are people-oriented; they work through and motivate their employees, utilizing their resources to perform assigned tasks in the most productive and profitable way possible.
Many managers confuse management with leadership, and feel they are automatically leaders because they occupy a position of higher responsibility. While this assumption is often true, many fail to display active leadership qualities. The roles leaders fulfill are different than those of managers, although sound management practices are complementary to effective leadership.
While some individuals are natural leaders, most managers must evolve into leaders both by investing time and effort in developing their abilities and by adapting their management roles to a more flexible, effective leadership style.
Leaders learn how to harness the specific talents of every employee team member in driving efficiency and productivity. While this may appear to be more work than it's worth, effective leaders are able to produce higher levels of productivity with fewer problems than from simply using traditional managing techniques.
When leaders adhere to specific leadership roles they will foster trust, inward strength, and a unity of purpose in the groups under their direction. As leaders, they will embrace their own personal responsibilities, understanding that anything is possible and attainable. They will recognize that each specific element is a stepping stone to the next that ultimately creates a transition from managing to leadership. To define a personal leadership role, the following three principles are critical:
Leaders take complete responsibility for all their actions and decisions. Often leaders must make a decision to challenge rules proven to be detrimental to their overall work environment and the people entrusted to them. The role of a leader is to set ineffective or unproductive rules and procedures aside in favor of those promoting increased cooperation, trust, and ownership.
Leaders never waiver in this pursuit. They understand that part of their role is to take risks whenever a policy, procedure, or situation hinders progress - and stand by their decisions.
Making improvements often means rocking the boat. While often challenging to the best leaders, this is a substantial part of true leadership. Leaders recognize the status quo often isn't good enough, and that it takes change and creativity to generate improvements.
Leaders approach their roles with serious determination. Part of their role is not to dwell on the "rearview mirror," but to look forward. They learn from past mistakes and errors in judgment, but never allow them to affect future opportunities and possibilities. Leaders learn to detach themselves from their circumstances to maintain a clear, forward-thinking perspective.
In order to succeed, leaders must unburden themselves of emotions and perceived limitations that impede attainment of goals and performance. They know past experiences can easily alter good judgment. For a leader, past experiences become the lessons for the future, producing the wisdom to adapt to change.
Leaders know situations or problems will not always fit into neat compartments and have predictable outcomes. They understand and accept that even the most unthinkable changes and devastating occurrences are a possibility, and that their role is to embrace the challenge to overcome them.
Leaders also know they must be flexible in any and all situations, and that looking forward requires creating viable alternatives. They are aware that part of their function is to embrace change and the challenges it brings.
The most important role a leader must fulfill is to cultivate, support, and nurture employees. Anything can be achieved with fertile enough ground to plant and grow the seeds of accomplishment. To best achieve this end, it is important to:
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