As an Executive Coach & Leadership Development Specialist, I often work with members of senior leadership teams to help them improve their performance, retain key talent, improve relationships, be more productive, build resilience and find their own solutions to challenges. One of the key parts of the coaching is recognising the difference between managing and leading a team. Is a good manager automatically a good leader?

1. Managers focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’; leaders focus on the ‘why.’

Managers are usually quite task oriented, focusing on what is being accomplished and how. Leaders are more focused on contributing to the organisational vision by motivating and inspiring others to follow a vision.

2. Managers are task focused; leaders are people focused.

A manager will know ‘what’ their employees are – what their job title is and how many years they have been in the role. On the other hand, leaders will know ‘who’ they are – their motivations, strengths, interests and concerns and how they fit into the bigger picture.

3. Managers talk and tell; leaders listen and learn.

Leaders tend to take a more people-centric approach and ask questions to figure out how they can get the most out of their employees. They will listen more than they talk and have frequent conversations with their people. In contrast, managers are task-focused, they will generally tell their people what is expected of them and ensure processes are followed.

4. Managers attend to necessity; leaders attend to possibility.

Managers are concerned with the here and now. They attend to what they can see, hear and feel in the moment. They like to focus on what is working well. Leaders are more concerned with future possibilities and challenging the status quo.

5. Managers are focused on the action; leaders are focused on the vision.

Leaders engage others in their vision for the future, but managers are critical for turning that vision into goals, those goals into objectives and those objectives into action.

So, managers and leaders are both really important parts of the workplace. To be successful, we need both but it’s also possible for managers to lead and leaders to manage. If you’re a manager wanting to develop your leadership skills, find out more about Executive Coaching. It is a really powerful developmental tool. In the meantime, as a rule of thumb, manage tasks but lead people.

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