Managers vs. Leaders – BORRRRING!!

Let’s guess what you’re thinking. Probably something along the lines of: “Another article about what it means to be a leader, even if you don’t manage anyone.” And you’ll probably move on or delete this as your eyes roll to the back of your head. But wait! Keep reading…

This topic has been a hot one for a while. If you search for it on Google, you will get about 35,800,000 results (at least that’s what we got). There are more pictures than you can count of a leader helping push people up a mountain, while a manager steps on heads to make it to the top first. And the memes? Don’t get us started.

Alongside all that, you’ll see articles: “3 Differences between Managers & Leaders,” “Leaders vs Managers: Which Are You?,” “Want to Be a Leader Not a Manager?” and so on.

Obviously, something isn’t sticking. You can read 174 articles about how to be better, but unless you are actually applying it in real life situations – not in your head or just saying it to others – nothing is going to change! Then you’ll read another article and think, “Yup, I do that,” while the people you manage whisper about how horrible you are behind your back.

So let’s say this a little louder: JUST BECAUSE YOU MANAGE PEOPLE DOES NOT MAKE YOU A LEADER. FURTHERMORE, YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A MANAGER TO BE A LEADER. Oh, yelling it at you didn’t work? We didn’t think so. It’s time to take a look at yourself internally and answer the hard questions. Here are a few things you can put to work:

Managers have employees. Leaders have followers.

As a manager in an organization, you have employees assigned to you. And most of the time, they don’t get to choose their manager. They’re reporting up in the structure pre-established by the organization. They come to you when there’s an issue with a project or with technical questions. And you answer, just like you should. You’re in charge!

When you’re a leader, people want to follow you; and they get a choice (lucky for them). They might be your employees, they might not. They might be peers, friends, or even someone higher on the reporting structure than you. These people come to you seeking advice, perspective, and direction. Because they trust you and believe in you.

Putting it to work: Communicate the direction you’re headed and why you’re headed there. Stop giving people all the answers. Stop demonstrating your knowledge. Instead, ask questions, lead people to form their own opinions and make their own choices. Encourage them see things from other points of view. Don’t just tell people to set goals, but help them grow. And most importantly, ask yourself this: “Do my people follow me because they have to or because they want to?”

Managers have sympathy. Leaders have compassion.

Two more words that are often interchanged. Sympathy is feeling bad for someone when they’re suffering. When people are struggling, most managers do feel bad for them. They are sympathetic, or maybe even empathetic, putting themselves in the person’s shoes.

Compassion is actually doing something to help alleviate the suffering. Leaders have an urge to help the person so their burden is a little lighter. And they don’t do it because they have to; they do it because they want to. They feel the pain, pressure, or stress and have a natural instinct to help make it better.

Putting it to work: Let’s say a person you work with is dealing with some family issues that are starting to interfere with work or productivity. If a sympathetic manager knew about the situation, she might look the other way if the person is late to work or isn’t as focused as usual. If a compassionate leader knew about the same situation, she may ask to take a project off the person’s plate or (if she has the authority) give the person a personal day to focus on family Ask yourself this and be honest: “Which is truly more important to me: getting results or the well-being of my people?”

Managers have power. Leaders have influence.

Managers are given the power and authority to make decisions over work and people. And we all know that not every decision is easy, nor popular. It is times like these that dictatorship rears its ugly head and people start whispering behind closed doors.

Leaders are given no power. They only create influence. Leaders communicate their purpose and gain their influence by diving in and encouraging others. Have you ever had a person in your career that you looked up to? Someone who made you think or discover things about yourself? A mentor or role model, perhaps? You likely didn’t realize it at the time, but they probably influenced a few of your choices in a positive way.

Putting it to work: What you truly believe comes out in your actions. Ask yourself, “Do I truly believe in my people and their ideas?” You have to empower others to voice opinions. And you have to be communicating the direction you’re headed, every day. Good leaders are transparent. And when it comes time to make hard decisions, people will be much more likely to jump on board if there are no surprises because you’ve been open and honest along the way.

So, let’s cut the crap. The poo. The bull honkey. Anything but the cheese. Managers will talk until they are blue in the face that they care about their teams, but unless there is ACTION, nothing is going to change. And then we are stuck in this continuous cycle of searching for articles about leaders vs. managers, reading them, and then forgetting all the valuable information we should have put to use. And their poor employees? They’ll either choose to be miserable or choose to leave. Please don’t make us write another one of these…just LEAD.


Looking for more way to put leadership into action? Click here!!

Are your leaders free? Find out here!