Leaders vs. Managers: What Is In Your Toolkit?

May 27, 2020

Which one are you? Maybe you are a hybrid or a little of both with other ingredients added in for flavor.

I give lots of thought around the leadership angle in my work. My view is as follows: Leadership is about inspiring people, motivating them, and getting them to do more than they ever thought possible. Leadership is about coaching your people to a higher performance level, both in their work and on a personal level. Leaders are like orchestra conductors understanding that each person is a separate instrument. Their goal is to create that symphony from numerous participants, each playing their instrument inspired to hit the “high notes”.

Management is about responsibilities:

It is more directive, and in my view, command and control. Measuring results and taking remedial action. Managing is more about administering and making sure the day-to-day activities are happening as they should be. Both new and seasoned management veterans were taught how to assign work to subordinates, evaluate their work, and direct them. They learned how to “fix” performance problems. They hired and fired when needed. Everything they were taught about management assumed that they had all the answers, they were the ones who knew what to do and called all the shots.

New Leader in town

This dynamic worked in its entirety over the years, but when you move away from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, the style has to be “reconfigured”.

I use that word reconfigured because like the title in this article, your style is like a recipe. You have a main style and you also have an array of other styles that would determine your approach thus the leader’s toolkit.

Korn Ferry developed a Leadership Style model that makes up this toolkit:

1. Visionary leaders articulate a shared mission and give long-term direction.

2. Participative leaders get consensus to generate new ideas and build commitment.

3. Coaching leaders foster personal and career development.

4. Affiliative leaders create trust and harmony.

5. Directive leaders simply give commands.

6. Pacesetters focus only on hitting targets.

This smorgasbord allows for an array of styles. You can not be successful today if you depend on ONE style. Sure, we all have a dominant style, but the array of choices allows us to use the tool as the situation dictates.

An array of styles in one day

At 9 a.m, you meet with your team on day-to-day assignments but lack a broader view of the company’s goals. You articulate a vision of a shared mission and the big picture. The goal is to get them motivated and headed in the right strategic direction.

Later in the morning, you could join a group of managers dealing with a crisis. In this situation, you would have to be more directive in your approach. Decisions have to be made, and a direct approach would be needed.

In the afternoon session, you meet with a team that had lost most of its senior members after a recent wave of reassignments. In this situation, you could adopt a coaching role, helping the group recognize their missing skills and devising a way to quickly build the team’s capabilities.

By mid-afternoon, you could have already used three different leadership styles. To be an effective leader in today’s changing world, you need more than a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. You must adjust your leadership style to face the challenges of the moment.

Becoming a great leader doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process that leaders work on and make adjustments. Feedback on your leadership behavior and the impact can speed up the process and help you to focus your efforts. And it will be worth it.

What would your team think?

We all have this vision of ourselves as a leader, but your team will and should be the final arbiter as to your skills in this area.

Would your team agree that you are a great leader? Remember leadership styles impact the effectiveness of the team. Your team’s feedback on your leadership styles can help you to challenge your habits and assumptions. Developing your styles makes you more flexible in the way you lead. And you will get more out of your team by choosing the most appropriate style for each situation you face.

If you want to know how you are doing, ASK your team. They determine your effectiveness!

Managing is about things while leadership is about people“ – Ron Thomas

Ron Thomas is a managing director at Strategy Focused Group, a global team of Human Capital Strategist committed to helping you solve people issues within the organization. Ron can be reached at ron.thomas@strategyfocusedgroup.com.

Written by: Ron Thomas

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