Three Key Habits that Set Leaders Apart from Managers

Neal SpencerBy Neal Spencer 3 years agoNo Comments
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Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. – Peter Drucker

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a business card with the word “manager” on it. After all that hard work and faithfully doing what you were told, now it’s your turn! Now YOU get to order people around.

But you still have an important choice to make: Do you really want to be a manager – or would you rather be a leader?

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, come on Neal, who cares if you say manager versus leader? Isn’t it all the same thing?”

But rest assured, it’s not all the same to your employees. What do you want them saying behind your back? Do you want them rolling their eyes, giving the bare minimum, and living for quitting time? Wouldn’t you rather see folks come in excited every day, motivated to give their very best, and get excited about the overall success of your organization?

I’ll bet you’re starting to think about how you can develop the leadership attributes that’ll make you the awesome boss everybody trusts and respects, and not the one they fear when they see them walking down the hallway. If you want your organization – and your people – to Thrive and not Just Survive, a great place to start is to move beyond being just a manager – and instead become a respected leader.

Great Organizations Do Not Live By Management Alone.
Sure, every organization needs someone who can manage resources, enforce clear and equitable policies – and, yes, keep the trains running on time. But a bonafide leader moves beyond this myopic focus on day-to-day task management and inspires team members to aspire to something greater – for the organization and for themselves.

That’s why it’s so important to understand Three Key Habits for developing effective leadership attributes, so that your organization will not Just Survive – but will truly Thrive.

Habit #1: Leaders Focus on People
How many times do you hear a company say our people come first, when in reality it’s just their marketing slogan or tagline? Those organizations operate in the Management Perspective, in which workers function merely as cogs in the wheel, as interchangeable as the nuts and bolts in

a cold, hard machine. The focus is on maximizing efficiency, productivity, and minimizing labor costs, all resulting in increased profitability at the expense of its employees. The boss gives the orders and the employees do what they’re told without asking questions or participating in the decision process.

Great leaders treat every one of their employees differently, giving them the opportunity to make mistakes so they can learn and improve. Great leaders also have a goal of helping their employees achieve their highest level of success, whether that’s for their current organization or another organization should they decide to pursue other opportunities – because when a great leader looks back on their career, it’s never about the money they made, the house they own, or the cars in the garage. Their success is measured by the number of people they help achieve their dreams and goals.

Habit #2: Leaders Walk the Walk
In the Management Perspective, the manager is THE boss who makes the rules – while the employees obediently do most – sometimes all – of the actual work that creates value. The manager monitors progress and tracks outputs. He or she may practice Management by Walking Around, checking to make sure that nobody is “slacking off.”

According to the Leadership Perspective, the leader sets an example for the rest of the team by doing much of the heavy lifting. Individual team members are empowered with all the resources they need to do their jobs successfully. The leader practices the lost art of Leadership by Walking Around, taking the time to visit one-on-one with team members. He or she seeks the wisdom and insight of other team members and acts as a mentor to help employees develop their natural talents and become valued contributors.

I remember a time early in my career, when on a Friday evening I got a call from my boss telling me I needed to be in the office on Saturday morning to complete a project – a project he’d given me very little direction on and no clear timing on when he expected it to be complete. I was furious as my parents were in town visiting. But as a good employee I showed up early Saturday morning to complete the project. Much to my surprise, my boss was there. He pulled up his chair next to my cubicle and together we worked through the project and we were both on our way home a few hours later. He never apologized for his poor direction, but his actions that Saturday morning showed he cared about me. From that point on I no longer viewed him as my manager but someone I respected, trusted and would do anything for.

Habit #3: Leaders Focus on the Future
In organizations with a Management Perspective, the manager seeks to replicate the past and keep things the same. Change is perceived as a threat and risk-taking is often avoided. In dealing with employees, the manager emphasizes conformance to well-established standards. Decisions are justified by saying things like “that’s the way it’s always been.”

The Leadership Perspective, however, is decidedly future-oriented. Rather than obsessing over preserving the past, the leader continually seeks improvement – for the organization and for every individual member, including him- or herself. Questions are encouraged and new ideas from diverse perspectives are welcomed. The leader is unafraid to take a risk and change is perceived as an opportunity for greater success in the future. In fact, great leaders are more concerned about getting the organization to even greater success five years from now rather than the results they are achieving today.

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