3 Keys to Making the Transition from Manager to Leader


A lot of people have the misconception that managing is the same as leading. While there are some similarities, of course, there's a big difference between being a manager and being a leader. Do you know the difference between the two? And are you putting your efforts into the right areas to truly be an effective leader?

What is Management?

When it comes down to it, management is about processes and systems. It's about what is being done and how it's being accomplished. Managers tend to get promoted through the ranks, and, as long as they are getting the right training on working with people and conflict resolution, they can get good results. Most managers are risk adverse and the majority of their decisions are based on avoiding loss or criticism.

What is Leadership?

While managers are focused on systems, leadership is all about people. They are still concerned with the "what", and narrowing in on the 'right whats', but they are less worried about the "how" and instead focus on the "why". Not only must they understand why things are being done, but they must also be able to communicate that to their team. While an effective manager can get results through action and can rely on hierarchy to gain authority, leaders need to gain and use influence. They do this by empowering others to succeed. Leaders have to be strong learners and spark their team to be learners as well. Whereas managers are cautious and avoid big risks, leaders know that risk-taking is imperative and they're prepared to endure failures to get to the big rewards.

The Keys to Being a Leader

If you're in management and fit the criteria, great! But if you think of yourself (or want to think of yourself) as a leader and find that you're acting more like a manager, you need to make some changes. Here are three keys to making the transition:

Develop self-awareness and be willing to take feedback.

While managers can usually still be effective while following a plan that is laid out for them, leaders need to be self-aware. They need to be constantly re-evaluating how their course of action is affecting others and if it's producing the desired results and culture. They also need to be willing to listen to and incorporate feedback no matter how it's given.

Develop a strategic mindset.

Leaders need to be tactical geniuses. It doesn't matter if there is a tried and true plan that everyone has followed in the past. If this isn't working, leaders need to be ready to change the system to achieve the results they want. Leaders are not followers, they are innovators.

Be willing to make the decision for the greater good.

Leaders understand that everyone is connected in their organization and that each person on the team has a part in the greater goals and results of the company. Because they have this awareness, they are able to and willing to make decisions based on the greater good knowing that it will have the most far-reaching positive results when it's all said and done. While a manager may be afraid to make a choice that will require downsizing or outsourcing, a leader will make the tough call because they see it's necessary for growth.

Managers and leaders are both important and necessary for a company to grow. The trouble comes in when a leader is acting like a manager and there's no one at the helm of the ship calling out directions. If you're in a leadership role and find yourself thinking and acting more like a manager, it could be a clue to either change your mindset or rethink you position.


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