Why choose to be a manager or a leader when you can do both?

Why choose to be a manager or a leader when you can do both?

Do you aspire to be a great manager or an inspired leader? If you pick up a text book on leadership or management, it may well separate the two roles and perhaps describe a manager as someone who places emphasis on systems and structures and a reliance on control, whilst a leader is seen as someone who places emphasis on being inspirational and innovative, seeing the wider organisational picture.

My thoughts are that the two can and should go hand in hand; after all, blue sky thinking is not helpful if at the end of the day you can’t manage the people who will help bring that thinking to reality.

In today’s business world leaders are also increasingly required to work with management information and data, given the enhancements of technology and drivers such as key performance indicators.  Not forgetting also, the need within any organisation to have an understanding of financial management, cash flow, resourcing, quality and customer service.

When broken down, the qualities and characteristics of a leader are really about the individual, their emotional intelligence, being someone that others trust and being insightful.  If on the other hand we unpick what we refer to as management or being a manager, we can see this is skill based; being skilled at managing people, analysing data, maintaining focus on key performance indicators.  In both cases, the qualities and attributes, the skills and the focus have to be consistent and reliable for others to follow that individual.

So for me, being a leader has to go hand in hand with a high level of self-awareness and reflective learning; reflecting on how we have behaved in a particular situation, what we could do differently in future, then doing it differently in future.  Being a manager is about developing the kind of skills that will contribute in a practical sense to organisational objectives – being organized, interacting with others on the right interpersonal level, making best use of resources.  Put these together and it is about what you do and how you do it as an individual.

It probably goes without saying that there is of course overlap between the two and possibly two of the most obvious areas are in managing self - such as taking initiative, meeting commitments, and adapting to changing circumstances - and the second being to ensure that whatever decisions are made and actions taken, the outcome contributes to business goals.

Perhaps it’s rare to find an individual who we would truly describe as both a good leader and a good manager but such a person is of far greater value to an organisation than those who are either one on its own.

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