Are You a Leader or a Manager?

“The most dangerous myth is that leaders are born - that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born." ~ Warren Bennis

Being a leader means playing the long game

Leaders develop minute by minute, day by day, year by year. Their days are filled with knotty problems, challenges, opportunities and risks. They won’t get everything right all the time, there will be highs and lows, their people will rise to the occasion and sometimes fail to show up. Their resilience will be tested at every turn. Ultimately, they will be successful in this infinite journey – they may lose a battle, but their eyes are firmly fixed on the long game – a vivid vision of the future they are working towards.

Leaders build businesses that will endure, based on cultures that allow people to bring their whole selves to work and make the most of who they are. If the challenge of leadership excites then that is half the battle, because leadership is certainly about being challenged. If you believe you were born a leader, are fixed in your ways of doing things, then leadership is probably not for you and you should carry on as you are. But if you believe as I do, and Warren Bennis does, that leaders are made not born, then read on.

Leadership is complicated

There is a lot to learn and it is a never-ending journey. Most leaders don’t get trained in leadership, they just pick it up from their boss, from books and magazines and from high profile leaders in the press. This can be massively confusing. you might be reading about Steve Jobs and his leadership style with Apple (which changed hugely between his first tenure as CEO and his second one), then Nelson Mandela and his leadership of South Africa, or Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX. All are successful leaders, and all are completely different.

One day you are a manager and the next you’re asked to be a leader and you are supposed to know what to do, at least that was the case when I became Managing Director of Celemi limited back in 1977. So, let me explain the key differences between leadership and management.

Leadership is about working 'on' the business

Leadership is about deciding where you are going to go as a business and setting an inspiring vision. It’s about understanding what makes you different from the competition and then inspiring, challenging, growing and developing your people to perform at their best in their work towards achieving the vision.

Management is about working 'in' the business

On the other hand, management is about working in the business. It’s about planning, organising and controlling and making sure things get done. As we work our way up the organisational ladder, we need to learn more leadership skills, while still spending most of our time managing, whereas once we get to the top of an organisation, we need to spend most of our time leading.

To be a genuine leader, remember it's not all about you

Leadership can never be more about the leader, than the led. When it is, be careful. If you are a leader or you aspire to be one, then ask yourself why? Why do you want to be a leader? The wrong motives will stress you and the organization, it will lead to a dysfunctional leadership team, poorly led people, awful meetings and a lack of clarity and alignment in the business. Whereas, choosing to be a leader for the right reasons will be quite the opposite. Leadership is not easy, it is tough. Do leadership well and you will find it to be the most challenging and the most rewarding thing you will ever do.

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