Bob Nelson once said, “An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.” I use to consider management as an ultimate goal of success. In fact, I believe a majority of individuals strive to either 1) be in management or 2) own their own business where they are in charge of decisions, people, and policy. However, the more I consider what a manager is, the more I realize, that’s not what I want to be.
In my current full-time role, I am a manager. In fact, my title says, “Client Experience Manager.” I have a direct impact on decisions, people, and policy. This week, I had an opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time with an employee discussing corporate culture and the challenges we face as an organization. Many of these organizational challenges are common among companies our size, and all of these challenges can be overcome with proper direction. It wasn’t the discussion about the culture that affected me the most. It was the conversation itself and how this employee entrusted me with information that’s valuable to the success of the organization. She trusted me. She trusted how I would use the information and how it can be used for the betterment of our organization. Why is this important?
The line between manager and leader use to be blurred. Today, I believe the line is more apparent then ever. I was in a meeting with my boss and another manager. The other manager was talking about how her employees thought of her as a great manager (which she is). I immediately said, “I’m not a great manager.” With a confused looked among the others in the room, I followed by saying “I’m a great leader.” Humble right? The point I was trying to make in this casual conversation is we should strive to be leaders, not managers. What’s the difference?
Below are five characteristics of a leader vs. manager:
- Leaders listen. Managers manage.
Leaders are constantly learning from their peers no matter what role they play in an organization. Everyone has something valuable to say (at times). Leaders tend to be good listeners while managers tend to dictate and manage people. Learn to listen.
- Take initiative.
Managers are comfortable with meritocracy. They’re excellent at managing time and usually get the job done well. However, they are never looking to increase productivity on their own, create better efficiency, or consider changes that involved possible more work for their team. If executives request higher productivity, managers usually make it happen because they were always capable of doing better. However, they complain how busy they are and how they need more staff. Leaders strive to be the best. They are constantly looking for opportunities to increase efficiency, be different, try new ideas, and encourage their employees to do the same. When something happens, they are the first to offer help.
- Communication is key.
Managers can be pretty good at communicating tasks. In fact, I would go as far as saying managers communicate well. Managers need to get things completed. They are doers and therefore they are telling their team to “do this and do that.” However, in connection with number one, they bark orders but don’t communicate overall goals, opportunities, and encourage conversation. Leaders encourage their employees to talk with everyone, learn from everyone, and work with everyone. When everyone is communicating openly about the past, present, and future, great things can happen. Communication leads to success.
- Be personal.
Millennials want to have a relationship with their boss. Managers disconnect themselves from what’s real. Many times they do this because of the decisions that “might” need to be made down the line. Managers feel if they become too close to their employees, it will be harder to discipline, employees won’t respect their manager, or communicate with them as they do with friends, and not professional acquaintances. Leaders can be personal, earn respect, and work as a team together. Understanding someone’s backstory can help a leader create his or her future story. Leaders challenge employees through historical knowledge of who they are. Leaders are good at not crossing the personal line.
- Everyday is great.
Lastly, and one of the most apparent way to identify a leader vs. a manager is their happiness in the workplace. Leaders tend always to be positive, never tear people apart, and are traditionally encouraging. Even on tough days, they keep a semi-smile on their face. They understand their current role is something they have to deal with and therefore they are positive. Managers see their job as their job, and a means to make money. You very rarely see them excited about anything in the workplace and the people around they are affected, by the way, their manager approaches them, or even worst, doesn’t approach them. Everything is an argument and not a conversation.