I’m always amazed at how much people love the word “leader”. Everywhere I read (only a slight exaggeration) I find references to this person is a leader, that person is a leader, everyone is a leader. Leadership doesn’t even seem to be a function of experience. Someone right out of college can be a leader, but not many people seem to be willing to raise their hand and proclaim that they are a manager. They may be a manager by title, such as “middle manager” but its only because they are given that mantle not because they want to be called that.
I’ve had plenty of engineers and engineering managers who have told me that they want to be leaders not managers even though their title includes the word “manager” in it.
Well, I think I’ve finally cracked the code on this manager versus leader “thing”.
Both managers and leaders want to achieve the same thing… their common outcome is to “influence” other people to action; action that accomplishes what the manager or leader wants accomplished. So the real difference between them is in the “perceived method” by which they each accomplish this influence.
I believe that the general consensus (yet not clearly acknowledged) is that managers accomplish their influence through the exercise of “authority” and leaders accomplish their influence without the application of “authority”, or more positively through the inspirational motivation of those being influenced.
When I think about the people who have told me they did not want to be managers but rather wanted to be leaders I remember a tinge of… managers “tell people what to do” and leaders “get people to do something because the people want to do it themselves”.
Oh how complicated we make our lives.
In my workshop “Influencing Without Authority” I spend two days addressing just this issue and it all boils down to this; “once you understand how to influence people, once you understand how people are influenced, it becomes a sliding scale with influencing WITH authority at one end and influencing WITHOUT authority at the other end and an infinite number of points in between, regardless of your title or position. The truly effective manager and/or leader moves smoothly between these two extremes sometimes using authority to influence and sometimes not using authority at all. To me this is how to elegantly work with, manage, and lead others.
(I discuss this in more depth in eZine #43 which can be found in the eZine archive section under the FREE button of my website.