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Top business and career coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer firsthand insights on leadership development & careers.
Every manager strives to become a good leader. Reaching this role takes a shift in thought, as well as in the way that you lead. Becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight as it takes time to cultivate your leadership and ensure you are thinking about your organization’s vision rather than the mere execution of different tasks.
According to a report by the Harvard Business Review, managers manage work while leaders lead people. The same report cites the need for leaders to surround themselves with people of influence, while managers typically focus on people of power. The differences may seem slight, but they can determine if you ascend to the next level in your leadership endeavor.
Fifteen members of Forbes Coaches Council shared their thoughts on the key differences between a manager and leader and what it takes to transition to from the former to the latter. Here is what they had to say:
1. Leaders Want You To Win
The jump from individual contributor to leader is a mindset shift to care about the broader organization outside of daily responsibilities. Leaders take on challenges instead of waiting for assignments. Leaders build organizations and help managers understand their function. Leaders study the organization and contribute beyond their role by developing managers. - Meredith Moore Crosby, Leverette Weekes
2. Leaders Are Visionary, Managers Are Tactical
Leaders are visionary. They're strategic, setting the forward direction of the company. A leader's charisma lights a fire in people to perform. Managers are tactical. They run the day-to-day operations of a company. Lighting fires under people to get their jobs done. To move from manager to leader often takes a change in heart and mindset. A person may even need to change jobs and start anew! - Rick Itzkowich, 501 Connections Inc.
3. Managers Micromanage, Leaders Inspire
Managers come from a command-and-control perspective. They need to tell others what to do and how it should be done. They micromanage. A leader creates a path forward with people using curiosity to hear ideas from their perspective. They inspire themselves and others to be the best they can be while stretching beyond what's comfortable. Being a leader begins from within, not outside ourselves. - Kris McCrea Scrutchfield, McCrea Coaching
4. Leaders Ask "Why" Instead Of "How"
A manager is a realist; they are managing and maintaining performance. A leader is a visionary who will challenge status quo and innovate. Managers excel in the now of process planning and execution, while leaders focus on impact, motivation and the future. The transition happens within a mindset shift. Leaders ask their teams "why" instead of "how." - Leanne Wong, MC Partners
5. Leaders Guide Others Towards An Outcome
Managers are responsible for controlling all or part of an organization. A leader is someone who guides others to a destination by going in front of or beside them. While managers make sure everyone fulfills their roles, leaders look for leadership potential in others to achieve a vision. Transitioning from managing to leading requires trust in your team and recognizing their leadership behaviors. - Lianne Lyne, PLP Coaching, LLC
6. Managers Train, Leaders Develop
Managers train people on what to do and how to do it, building competency and specific skills for a particular role or function. Leaders develop their people personally, professionally, and through continued learning, expanding knowledge for long-term growth and advancement. - Susan Taylor, Generon International
7. Leaders Focus On Long-Term Results
A leader's actions primarily move the organization towards bigger picture and longer term results and customer impact. Managers are more about day-to-day wins. One way to make this transition is to be clear on how you measure your success. Leaders often measure their success in terms of many months, a year, or longer, whereas managers have shorter-term results they are accountable for achieving. - Bonnie Davis, Destination Up
8. Leaders Lead, Managers Follow
You can lead from out in front, from beside and even from behind. A leader can even report to a manager if they are leading the team or organization somewhere new. A leader leads. A manager follows. Both roles are important. To transition from manager to leader, you have to have a clear vision of what future needs to emerge. Then you have to earn people's willingness to follow you there. - Maureen Cunningham, Up Until Now Inc.
9. Leaders Have Courage To Face What Others Fear
Leaders must have the courage to see and say what others fear, to stand in the center of the fire, sit with the discomfort of doing hard things, and live with the power that comes from both failure and success. When success depends on every decision and the ripple each creates throughout an organization, recognizing your relationship with risk is a good place to start in elevating your leadership. - Teri Citterman, Talonn
10. Leaders Challenge The Status Quo
A leader challenges the status quo while a manager accepts it. It is the job of a leader to guide and encourage his/her followers through difficult times, while management tells their employees what to do. Leaders set the direction, take risks, have vision, think long-term, and inspire trust. Transitioning to leadership requires a huge mindset shift and stepping into your personal leadership vision. - Valerie Martinelli, Valerie Martinelli Consulting, LLC
11. Manager Is A Position, Leader Is A Quality
Manager is a title. It is a role and a set of responsibilities. Having the position of manager does not make you a leader. The best managers are leaders, but the two are not synonymous. Leadership is the result of action. If you act in a way that inspires, encourages, or engages others, you are a leader. It doesn't matter your title or position. - Doc Norton, CTO2
12. Leaders Know How To Listen
Active listening plays a powerful role in making the transition from management to leadership. Understanding the people in our care, learning from their perspectives, and developing their unique talents begins with listening. However, such listening can often be diluted or diminished when there is seemingly no time to pause. Taking the time to listen is the first action of strong leadership. - Tonyalynne Wildhaber, The Courage Practice
13. Leaders Grow People
A manager is an overseer, ensuring the work gets done, someone who holds a position. A leader is an influencer, a grower of people — not a position or title but a way of being. Get curious about your people, their strengths and challenges, what they want out of life, and what they feel their life purpose is. This is a great place to start to develop leadership skills. Build on your team's strengths. - Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC
14. Leaders Give Their 'Power' Away
One must shift out of the "me" focus derived from the traditional power hoarding mindset. True leaders realize their sole existence is to add value to others. The difference between a leader and a manager is determined through demonstrated action to develop trust, credibility and support others in their success. The more you support others, the more they support you as a leader. - Erin Urban, UPPSolutions, LLC
15. All Managers Should Be Leaders
At the most fundamental level, a manager is tasked with executing procedures. Be a leader and look for opportunities to lead by creating an environment of innovation and constant improvement. A manager who is a leader recognizes the power to influence people and relies less on authority to motivate and execute. Hire a professional leadership coach to make the transition. - Eddie Turner, Eddie Turner LLC