• Dave Beam

Distinguishing Your Role as Manager and Leader


What is the difference between manager and leader, and why does it matter? It makes for an interesting business discussion, but if you are “in the trenches”, is understanding this distinction all that useful?


I’ll cut to the chase. You cannot manage people, and you cannot lead projects. You lead people, and manage projects. Both roles and functions are important and distinct. They are also related and both essential for effectiveness.


If you are a business owner, you have leadership responsibilities (team), and you have management responsibilities (system). An inspired, motivated, creative, happy team engaged and functioning in a well organized efficient system makes for a world class business.


If you are a good manager, but lack leadership, you will likely have good plans and systems and be frustrated that you can’t “find good people” or “get people to do what you want them to do”. You know if they would just follow the plan and do their job, everything would work out just fine. But they have ideas of their own, problems, and issues, and drama, and you frankly don’t know how to efficiently deal with people issues. All of the “management” training and techniques that you have tried only seem to temporarily address visible, shallow logistics, and fail to really transform the true “heart” of the matter.


For you to become a great organization, you and your team (notice the word team vs employees) must be “developed” as leaders, not just “trained” as managers. True leadership development is an inside/out personal growth. It is in essence a shift of context and identity. An effective leader comes from a different place – a place of principle, confidence, integrity, kindness, humility, service, and rigorous competence. Effective leaders listen. They are curious. They know how to make great decisions and move forward. They create and inspire vision, support risk taking, and know how to enroll participation. They know when to slow down and listen and think, and when to get up and go.


If you try to just manage and not lead, you will find yourself with a complicated rule book trying to cover every scenario. Some employees will act like toddlers that you have to chase. Other employees will be scared to death and afraid to move, and other independent folks will just go off and do it their own way. With all of this happening, the better folks will likely leave, and you will be left with less than the best. If you want excellence, you must be an excellent leader and have an excellent team.


So the question to be addressed is – what must you do to become a great leader and develop great leaders as well. Thinking and practice. As a coach, that’s my job; to help people shift their mind and context, and practice effectiveness. Then we re-evaluate, shift again, and practice some more. It is learning new habits of listening, dropping judgment, coaching, and inspiration. It is becoming more self-aware, and shifting from asking people to do things to offering to serve them. It is practicing creating agreements and dropping all expectations. It is about facilitating transformation, not just shoveling out more information. It is learning and developing a more effective stance. If you want to consider the possibility of coaching, call me! That is where it happens!!

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