Published in The New Zealand Herald, 15 Aug 2015
By: Leigh Paulden, 10 August 2015
Understanding the difference between the two roles is vital to a firm’s successful growth
Are you a manager or a leader? Are you even sure of the difference? For a company that is scaling up, understanding this difference is crucial to growth success. Small companies can get by with a charismatic leader – the person who has the vision and talks the big talk, but who struggles with the day-to-day stuff. Research suggests the tipping point for a growing business is at about 50 employees. After this point, a management structure needs to be in place to ensure the stability of the company as it expands.
What is the difference between a manager and a leader?
Managing is about differences and leading is about sameness. Great managers identify the different attributes, skills and strengths of their team members and capitalise on them. Great leaders build a common vision for the company and inspire others towards it and towards achieving a common set of goals.
Take a growing construction company that has a goal of reducing the number and frequency of workplace accidents and injuries.
In this example, the bigger purpose of the goal is to keep staff safe and, to achieve this, a leader needs to highlight the importance of safe work practices. The leader also needs to inspire employees by showing how each person can contribute towards the goal. But, a good leader providing encouragement and inspiration towards a common goal is not enough to meet that goal.
New processes may be required, old processes may need to be reviewed, training may be required and the attitudes of staff may need to change. This is where managers step up to the plate – utilising the strengths of individual employees to get the job done.
What does it take to be a great manager?
Ask a great manager about their team and they will be able to tell you specifically about each person: what their strengths are, what their role is and what they have achieved. Great managers know their people and they work with their strengths.
What does it take to be a visionary leader?
A visionary leader can be the difference between a reasonably performing business and an exceptionally performing business.
As a company grows, it is not uncommon for it to outgrow its early leaders. Sometimes, the toughest decisions are around people and their changing roles in the organisation. Personal relationships, egos and loyalties can all be in play, making this decision-making process even harder.
Another thing I often see holding back businesses of all sizes is courage. Courage is an opportunity presented to us all to shape a vision into reality. And courage is required to execute strategy to achieve a vision. Visionary leaders don’t stand in the shadows, they step forward and inspire.
Although there are clear differences between managers and leaders, it’s not cut and dried. An overlap of skills is required. As a manager, focused on management activities, it can be easy to forget that although you are not the top of the food chain people still look to you for inspiration. So it is unavoidable that managers are also leaders.
And vice versa, there are very few organisations that can afford to have a single inspirational leader sitting in a glass office spouting words of inspiration for the rest of the organisation to action. In most cases, leaders too manage people and have their own specific targets to achieve.
Scaling up a business requires both. Does your business have both?
Tips for top managers
International business expert Verne Harnish, in his book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits 2.0: Scaling Up, says there are five key habits that great managers focus on:
1. They help people play to their strengths. These are not necessarily the things they are good at; they are the things that provide strength or energy.
2. They stop demotivating and start “dehassling”. It’s a manager’s job to remove the obstacles that stop people achieving – these are usually issues related to people and processes.
3. They set clear expectations and provide a line of sight. People perform better and are happier in their work when they understand how their job contributes to the overall goals of the company.
4. They give recognition and show appreciation. Everyone wants to feel valued and the direct-line manager is the first opportunity for praise to be given. Great managers provide more positive interactions than negative. Five times more, in fact.
5. They hire fewer people with more pay. One productive employee is better than three non-productive employees. Choose wisely and reward well.