Managing people

Leader vs manager: do you manage your team or lead them?

Leading people and managing people are different tasks.

Being a leader and manager are, however, two distinct concepts that can coexist, and the way you utilise and understand these concepts will have tangible outcomes for your business. 

Leadership is a mindset, and sometimes it's easy to get lost in the day-to-day grind of your own business that you forget the bigger picture, to the detriment of your business.

Consider these points when assessing your effectiveness:

1. Efficiency vs effectiveness

Managers typically ask questions around efficiency: “How can I make things faster?” “How do I improve the product or service quality?” “How do I maximise return on the product or service?” 

Reports and statistics are important because they show you the efficiency of what you do, but not necessarily the effectiveness.

Leaders typically ask the question behind the method: “Should I be producing this product at all?” 

To answer this question, leaders will have an understanding of the value and mission of the organisation, their workforce and what skill sets they have, and how this translates into making products or delivering services.

2. Management controls vs management enablers

Managers have subordinates who usually follow a set of controls. Controls are not necessarily restrictive but they have the effect of enforcing predictable behaviour. They could be obvious and written, such as policies and procedures, workplace agreements, or how you measure performance as a manager.

Alternatively they could be implicit, like workplace culture. A degree of this is required in all organisations designed to retrieve a pre-set outcome.

However, leaders temper these controls with enablers and the communication skills to find honest answers. Assuming these controls are in place, consider:

  • How much space do you give your employees to develop new methods to complete the same tasks?

  • Do you reward this innovation?

  • Does your workplace culture allow this innovation to occur?

  • Do the IT systems in your workplace help or hinder your staff in their daily work?

  • Do your employees have access to career development and training?

Leaders create an atmosphere of empowerment for employees to feel like they have a stake in the success of the company and constantly offer employees a way to be challenged and improved. Generally, these leadership skills lead to better productivity, internal and cost-effective innovation, employee retention, and employee satisfaction.

3. Profit vs promise

Managers are very much focused on goals and objectives surrounding today’s result. “Are we within our budget?” “What’s the deadline?” “How can we improve our processes?” Counting, controlling, and measuring are all important from day-to-day operational aspects, but success today with a particular product or service doesn’t necessarily mean it will be successful in the future.

Leaders typically ask “What’s on the horizon?” “What might change in my existing market?” “What opportunities will there be if technology changes and, conversely, what threats could that bring?” “What would happen to my organisation if I couldn’t produce my primary product anymore?”

Leaders recognise the cost of changing something now to prepare for the future. They don’t wait to change something when it's already too late.  

Implementing the appropriate changes in thought method should have a positive impact on the longevity and success of your business.

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