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Management vs. leadership: Are they the same thing? My perspective.

What is the difference between being a manager and a leader? And what do these differences mean to your business?[1]

In more traditional jobs, we so often strive to earn the title of Manager. The title generally comes with more prestige, increased pay, and greater responsibility. There is no doubt that being called the Manager, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), or Executive Director feels great. Earning the title means that someone has recognized one’s skills and abilities. And that is a bonus!

In my work as an employee, I never earned the title of Manager. And in some ways, it seems as if there is a gap in my experience. Yet, as a self-employed entrepreneur, I call myself a Facilitator & Conversation Starter / Business Strategist and Mentor. I like to use my title to describe what it is I do every day for my clients rather than focusing in on what it is I do internally for my business.

And yet I am solely responsible for managing ALL aspects of my business. I have been for almost 15 years. For me, management is about action. Getting the job done.

Now, when I consider what a leader is, my view is slightly different. To me a leader isn’t necessarily the person in charge.

A leader is the person who understands the vision of the organization, communicates it to the team, and finds ways to personally implement the vision as part of their daily work. In some cases, this person also inspires others to see how their day-to-day actions move the organization towards its short- and long-term goals.

This might be the Manager. Or it may be a front-line worker who is passionate about their work and recognizes the value of their daily work in relation to the big picture. When an individual understands their role in the achieving the big picture and they work towards it unfailingly, they show leadership.

A leader is the person who ensures that the:

  • right information is available at the right time;

  • business owner is organized;

  • workplace is neat and tidy;

  • marketing and sales funnels are flowing;

  • staff are engaged and happy;

  • and so on…

Sometime leadership spans a group: the “team” that sees the whole and ensure the priorities are attended to. Or, maybe it’s those individuals who approach other departments to say, “what if…” or “how might we…” and by doing so find ways to streamline the work across the organization.

My point is that in every organization, we are all leaders—should we choose to be. Leadership does not belong to the person who holds a certain position. Every day each of us has the opportunity to show up as leader or not.

When we as individuals understand how our unique contributions make a difference in moving our organization towards its goals and vision, then we are all leaders. And we all get to enjoy the outcomes associated with being a leader—even if all we are leading is ourselves.

As managers, when we communicate that each person has a leadership role to play in making the vision a reality; we invite others to step up and out, we challenge our teams to perform at the edge of their abilities, and in doing so, we show a high-level of trust in the capability of each person. How do you think that would feel to your team?

Imagine the positive energy that could be created if each of us became inspired to step into our own personal version of leadership every day and in every situation. I leave you with these questions:

  • What would the ripple effect be if each of stepped into self-leadership on achieving the organizational outcomes?

  • How would our organizational culture shift? How would that feel?

  • How would having a team of leaders impact your role as the manager of the “action”?

I hope you enjoy my take on management vs. leadership. I’d love to hear how these ideas land for you in the comments below.

[1] Let me first state that this is not a research based blog post. I haven’t consulted any leadership books or searched out articles on the Internet. I am simply reflecting on what management & leadership look like for me.

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