Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Difference Between a Manager & Leader

The Ripple Effect of one's actions is never more prevalent than when you are in a position to manage and work with people. In fact there is rarely a more incredible opportunity to contribute to someone else's confidence, skills and abilities than to guide and direct them through the actions you take on their behalf.  It's an awesome responsibility and one that far too many people take for granted.

All of this got me thinking about the key differences between simply just being a manager versus performing as a leader.

A manager focuses on what's in it for them.

A leader focuses on what's best for others and the collective team.

A manager tends to look at their people as a simply a number or worse, headcount.

A leader recognizes the people who work for them are individuals and their need to be treated as such.

A manager says, "Because I said so, that's why!"

A leader says, "This is why and how I know you are the right person to help make it happen."

A manager builds (either intentionally or unintentionally) frustration and resentment.

A leader builds trust and loyalty.

A manager plays head games, creates conflict and plays people off one another.

A leader never manipulates their people because people perform for those who inspire them to do so.

A manager requires their employees to do more with less.

A leader helps their employees discover new strategies and approaches despite limited resources.

A manager demands.

A leader simply asks.

A manager rules with an iron fist and often a not so subtle threat of consequences.

A leader motivates, inspires and sets the example.

A manager often sees the worst in people.

A leader sees the best in people as they are today and what they can become tomorrow.

A manager doesn't care about feelings.

A leader realizes that without an employee's heart and mind no one gets very far.

A manager doesn't view their job as developing their people.

A leader believes their only job is developing their people.

A manager will suck the life and soul from their workers like a vampire in need of a transfusion.

A leader will keep their people coming back for more if for no other reason because they want to.

A manager fails to recognize that their people are the most important ingredient to their success.

A leader constantly reminds their team that without them they are nothing.

A manager worries about star performers outshining them.

A leader hopes he develops everyone on the team to outshine them.

A manager manages.

A leader leads.

Do I believe all managers are bad? Absolutely not.  I point out the difference in attitude and approach to one's job and working with the people at that job for a very specific reason: we are all leaders, regardless of what our role is within our company.  True we may not always be in a role to influence broad company culture or strategic direction but we can and will effect the kind of change we want within the organization through the positive actions we take with the people we work with.  That's being a leader in my not so humble opinion.

And for those of you who are in a role to directly control, manage and manipulate what people do on a day to day basis I submit you have a choice.  You can be like all the other managers out there in the world that don't get it.  You can bury your head in the sand, rattle your saber and pretend that you are God's gift to your company and all the while continue lose your people's respect or you can step up and lead like a leader.  You can create an environment that people excel in.  You can create a culture of trust, commitment and loyalty.  And you can get the very best from the people you work with just by showing them through your words, deeds, and actions that your success is directly tied to their success.  It's a never ending process but one that yields so much better results.

That's real leadership my friend.

So when all is said and done are you going to be a manager or are you a leader?  Like I said the choice is yours.  Just make the right one will ya?

Ripple On!!!


Anonymous said...

Most of it seems right, but I think a key distinction is that

1) Managers are allocated resources by an organization


2) Leaders attract resources

As for "A manager focuses on what's in it for them." vs. "A leader focuses on what's best for others and the collective team." I have to say otherwise. A manager may in fact be focused on what his boss wants or the organization as a whole requires. This point seems misdirected. Especially as the key one you are making.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the anonymous commenter before me. I've worked for many managers in my lifetime and though it is true they are trying to satisfy their boss' and organizations requirements, I've seen ego and personal objective outweigh those of their employees more times than I can count. Perhaps if my current manager were to read this they would agree with you but their actions on a daily basis speak volumes as to how disconnected they are from being a true leader. Fortunately my manager won't read this because she has no time for personal development because she already knows everything - just ask her.

I think Mr. Harper's point is valid on this front and throughout the post. Great job!

Enjoyed it as always.


Steve Harper aka Mr. Ripple said...

To the first commenter. I think you have a valid point here. That's why I write these things to get a dialogue going. I appreciate your opinion and perspective.


Thanks for your comments as well. Give me a half hour with your boss and I bet I could change her mind. :)

Ripple On You Two!!!


Kevin Cocca said...

Steve love your enthusiastic approach to these kinds of topics. I've been a lurker for a while.

My experience tells me that most managers are promoted to their level of incompetence. They rarely receive the necessary training on how to get the most out of their people and it often shows. Something I speak on regularly.

I would say that as a former "manager" I woke up one day after reading a book about leadership - the title and author escapes me. The biggest point that the author made was this:

You can decide right here and now whether to continue being a miserable person to work for or you can change. It's a process and people won't always believe you are changing but eventually the proof is in the pudding. Leaders get their people to believe in them and their joint mission. It's a process but not am impossible one.

I am paraphrasing of course but that point has stuck with me for a long time.

Today I am proud to say that I am in a "manager position" but most people look at me as one of the true leaders of the company.

Thanks for the reminders!


Anonymous said...

Anonymous commenter here again Samantha -

I am not saying it cannot be true. In fact I recently worked for a person JUST LIKE the one you described. But I have also had boring and dry managers who were not into it so much for themselves as they were just serving as cogs in a big machine (trying to earn a living and take care of themselves/family). And the fact we even have a commentary going on this point supports my thought that this should be farther down the list, rather than the leading point.

As for Kevin's points -

I do appreciate your comments about "You can decide right here and now whether to continue being a miserable person to work for or you can change."

Given the state of the economy and the resulting limited mobility, can someone please give advice on how to deal with having a boss that is "a miserable person to work for." I am not someone's boss. Just seeking advice on how to deal with the kind of person with all the worst traits Steve describes above. Frankly, such people can shorten one's life.

Cynthia T. Peters said...

Steve did a series on this though if they if your boss is that miserable then you might want to consult want Steve to give you some ideas on even more in-depth strategies.

This is a 4 or 5 part series I think but found the link to part 1:


Good luck and tell your boss to read Steve's BLOG and maybe he won't be so miserable.

Cyndi T!

Barbara S. said...

I have that boss (a manager - definitely not a leader) that says..."Because I said so." He could care-a-less about hearing my opinion and why there are better ways to do things. He's also the primary reason I am currently looking for a job. I am sick of working for a company that doesn't get that I am not cattle.

Can you help me with that?


Tina Young said...

Apparently the comment I thought I just posted didn't go through so let me try this again.

Your post is spot on Steve. When you spoke to our little group of executives you really started something. People were looking at their role and their own individual contribution to the people they have working for them differently. You created a Ripple with your talk and that was something I wanted to publicly say THANK YOU for!

This post is right on. Like with your talk your approach to helping us differentiate whether we want to be managers or leaders is an excellent reminder. We all have the ability to step up and lead and when you put others first...man does it make it easier.

Keep those Ripples coming Steve and hope to see you speak again real soon.

As you say...Ripple On!!!

Tina Young

Steve T. said...

I am and have been an owner of numerous businesses, and I still feel uncomfortable considering myself a leader. However, to be successful in my business ventures, I must strive to be a leader. People are counting on me to provide that leadership, and I need to deliver. Mr Harper's comments hit me like a ton of bricks, reminding me of how important it is to look at things from the perspective of my employees.

Steve Harper aka Mr. Ripple said...

Happy to help you with your dilemma on the difficult boss. Drop me a line and we can chat offline.

Thanks for your comments and for everyone contributing to this conversation. I think it's a good one!

Ripple On!!!

Erica B. said...

I am thinking that most managers are rarely prepared for the kind of responsibility that they are being given - especially the people part.

Your post makes people like me stop and think --- am I that manager? I hope not! Because I really want to be a leader.

Keep up the inspirational writing Steve.

Erica B. said...

I am thinking that most managers are rarely prepared for the kind of responsibility that they are being given - especially the people part.

Your post makes people like me stop and think --- am I that manager? I hope not! Because I really want to be a leader.

Keep up the inspirational writing Steve.

Steve Harper aka Mr. Ripple said...

A good BLOG post that talks about leadership that was worth sharing.