I often hear the terms leadership and manager or management used as synonyms or interchangeably. I think they are different. I have been involved in both roles and can honestly say that I believe there is a line between the two.
Don’t get me wrong—managers and leaders are both critical. Each plays a role, but in my mind, the roles are different. Sure, there is crossover, but essentially, they have different responsibilities or outcomes.
Managers have set operational responsibilities. They have a playbook that they follow. Their role and function is, for the most part, transactional. They make sure people, accounts, or operations run smoothly. They support those accounts, people, or operations within the confines of the organization. For the most part, managers play by the rules. They do all the correct things to achieve the desired goal or objective. They help their team, operation, or accounts get what they need and do what is deemed right or accepted practice to achieve that goal.
A manager, in my mind, becomes a leader when she or he steps outside that box or “the way we have been told to do it.” Leaders look to build a better mousetrap. They look at what they are doing and see if there is a better way. That may mean working with an account to find the best results for their goal, which means you don’t get all their dollars, or worse yet, that you don’t get the buy at all! But as a leader, you have seen what is best for that account and taken them there versus selling them something that will not yield as good an ROI for them. Or perhaps it is working with your operational folks to provide better data and research for your organization by doing something different, while keeping costs the same or lower for a better output. Or perhaps it means making your workplace more inclusive. That’s where a manager shifts into the role of leader.
Peter Drucker put it more succinctly in 11 words versus my 300+ above. He claimed, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
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