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Making Managers Great Leaders

What so you think is the primary role of a manager? To produce results, that’s it! And the only way to do this is through the efforts of the people around you. Traditionally, supervisors used to be more directive but today, they have to take on a more supportive role where they coach and develop staff. Why? Because of changing organization structure, increasing use of technology, ease of obtaining information, influx of the new generation of people into the workforce, higher education levels, different expectations, new way of working (work from home) etc. This has placed a greater need to develop leadership. But what really is leadership? Google it and you’ll find 166 million sites. Check on and you’ll get over 207 thousand books being referenced to. Do you think that these books say the same thing about leadership? No. The simplest definition of leadership I could find is from Peter Drucker (whom many consider the Father of Modern Management). He said that the leader is someone who has followers. The proof of leadership is found in the followers. It is not just about doing things right but doing the right things, nor is it about popularity but about results. Before we go into more details on leadership, let’s understand the difference between the roles of managers and leaders. The root of the word ‘manage’ comes from the word ‘manas’ which means hands. Management therefore is about accomplishing, taking charge, doing, etc. It involves the process of setting and achieving the goals through planning, organizing, delegating, directing and controlling. The word ‘lead’ on the other hand, means “to guide, travel”. Therefore, leading is about influencing, guiding, bringing out the best in others, coaching & developing others, and helping another get to a destination. It involves inspiring others to follow, providing an environment for others to thrive in, aligning everyone towards the common purpose, creating goodwill and supporting others. In a 1990 classic Harvard Business Review article: What Leaders really Do, John Kotter draws a similar distinction and sees Leadership and Management as two different and distinct systems each with their own functions & characteristics: Managers cope with complexity, using their power to obtain compliance….put order in our chaotic world. Leaders embrace change, using their influence to obtain commitment…. Setting us off on a new direction. Having said that, you can say that a leader can be a manager but a manager is not necessarily a leader. This notion is based on the reality that it’s a lot harder to develop leadership skills (soft skills) than managerial skills (hard skills). Leading deals more with People issues while Managing is more focused on work processes; leading has got to do with getting commitment while managing with gaining control; leading is more strategic while managing tactical; innovation vs. administration; long term vs. short term; big picture vs. details; long term view vs. short term view; etc. Essentially, managing involves goals and objectives. It is concerned with efficiency, controlling and problem-solving. The focus is the process and it seeks compliance. On the other hand, leading is focused on results and people. It embodies the mission and vision; is concerned with effectiveness, and motivating and inspiring people to commit to it. Warren Bennis, a management thinker, has a nice way of putting across the difference between a manager and a leader. He says that “The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.” To succeed in today’s VUCA environment, managers need to take on the roles of a coach, leader, developer, mentor, and planner. Leadership is different than management. Leadership isn’t about advancing yourself, it’s about your team and how you maximize the potential of your team. If you want to learn more on how to be a great leader, stay tune to my next article where I will share with you the No.1 skill that you will make you a Charismatic leader.


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