A question that is often asked is, what is the difference between a manager and a leader? Both are important, complementary roles in any organization that wishes to be successful and forward-thinking. While there are as many answers as there are questioners, here are some common denominators that most experts agree on.
Leaders keep the organization moving in the forward-thinking phase. They develop new approaches aimed at continuously improving a product or a service and focus on the “why.”
Much like the conductor of an orchestra, a leader sets the tempo and tone for the rest of the group and allows the virtuosos to flourish. A successful leader will cast a vision and inspire others to follow because of the trust they have placed in the leader. Leaders understand the high value of trust and never betray this.
Leadership behaviors include:
- challenging the status quo; being comfortable taking risks
- foster collaboration, and strengthen others
- set examples, act consistently
- focus on possibilities and not obstacles
- have a clear-eyed conscience
- be willing to fail and learn from it
Managers handle the important day-to-day business, coordinating and balancing opposing views and working through obstacles. They maintain what has been established and keep control of processes and the bottom line.
Managers develop virtuosos for the conductor to lead. In order to provide developmental opportunities, managers must take the time to understand their colleagues - what motivates them, and what is important to them.
Management behaviors include:
- goal setting
- planning work
- defining roles
- measuring progress
- developing supportive relationships
- listening, encouraging, praising, coaching
- directing and facilitating progress
Finding the Balance
It’s not unusual for a strong leader to be a weak manager. Typically strong leaders are charismatic, creative, and innovative. They also tend to operate on the brink of chaos and have a hard time accomplishing anything.
Conversely, strong managers who are weak leaders have an impressive record of success, but have a very difficult time adapting to change or embracing innovation.
No organization can fully function without both skill sets. This is the secret to the success of organizations like Pixar, who have grand visions about the film they are creating, and sweat every detail along the way. Whether you are a manager or a leader, your goals are ultimately the same; it's the method of getting there that differs. When all is said and done, it's about creating a team that has the right balance between the two so the necessary tasks are completed beyond expectations in an environment that embraces dynamic, forward-thinking.