In working for three fortune 500 companies and in having served in our US Navy, I have been blessed to have met many interesting people. Much has been written about the differences between Managers and Leaders and a few thoughts stand out. Many times I have seen the terms being used interchangeably. One is not necessarily better than the other, they each play a different role and both are needed in a successful business.
Mangers are Copies and Leaders are Original.
Managers are needed where there are many locations and you want people who drive consistency in the Brand. These people learn the policies, can compare performance against projections and expectations and they spot the gap. They hold people accountable and drive for performance. You can be a superstar as a Manager if you become proficient at turning a department or business around. For the most part managers work well when the rules are known and may not be as comfortable in ambiguity, typically Managers are logical minded. It is not as necessary for a Manager to connect on an emotional level since they are driving policy and performance metrics.
Leaders are needed to drive innovation. Leaders are needed to solve for things that may have no precedence. Leaders can develop policy where none has existed before. They can become the catalyst for new collaborative processes. Just as you can be a superstar Manager, you can be a superstar Leader. As a general rule, Leaders are much more comfortable living in ambiguity because they are creating the path they are on. Leaders can only lead change from within meaning they need the respect and support of the team otherwise they are called rebels or loose cannons. Leadership requires connecting on an emotional level. The way this looks is that a leader can read the emotion in a room and speak to it, drive it and even inspire action through emotional language and connection.
Can you be both? Can I learn to be both?
Some people are able to do both which is more of a rare quality to come across. Most people are moved or inclined to be one or the other. Even if you are inclined to be one way, either traits can be learned by being a deliberate student and having contact with a great mentor who is also deliberate about leading the way in a specific manner. So where are you in this? Are you a leader or a Manager? Being aware of how you are gifted can provide you with the clarity you need to grow in your role!