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Are you a Leader or a Manager?

September 22, 2012

Can we agree that Leadership & Management are totally different concepts.

Management is positional. Authority is positional, Control is most often positional.  Just because you are a CEO or Quarterback, a Pastor or even the Owner of a company, that does not make you a Leader. You are a Manager however.

There are many types of managers.  Micro-managers, Hands-on managers, Managers who prefer to delegate, Managers who use Fear & positional power to achieve results, Managers who use the carrot in lieu of the stick. There are Managers who will deflect and blame others, and other Managers will accept responsibility for the work of their employees. Some Managers endorse training & mentoring, while others believe in ‘sink or swim’ mentality, on the job training, drink from a fire hose.

Some Managers are also Leaders, but the fact is there are far more Managers than there are Leaders. People often confuse titles with ‘assumed Leadership’.  The Pastor of your church is the assumed leader of his congregation. The Quarterback of a Team is expected to be one of the leaders. The President of a company, union or association all have the positional power & ‘opportunity’ to become Leaders. Owners of small businesses often consider themselves the Leaders in their company.

Machiavelli said “The most efficient form of government is a benevolent dictator.” Regardless of this fact, self-imposed rule is rarely the foundation of Great Leaders.  Why do so many small businesses fail?  Why is there such heavy turnover in some businesses?  You can blame the economy, or competition, but the core reason is most often Poor Management, and a Lack of True Leadership.

People yearn for Great Leaders. Unfortunately, they often only get Good Managers. I know a Pastor that is a great administrator, but not a leader in any way, shape or form. He does the minimum required to interact with his flock, while hiding behind his rules and the many administrative tasks he chooses not to delegate keeping himself busy. He is a Great administrator!  That however is not what people need.  A Leader is proactive. They involve people & strive to create shared values.

A Pastor for example has a great ‘pulpit’ to take advantage of his position to drive change and create shared values to earn the trust of the congregation. If he preaches one thing, but doesn’t walk the talk or personally get involved, people will readily see through his hollow words.  The same applies to our Politicians. They have a great opportunity to drive shared values and purpose, but if they don’t live it, they will ultimately be undone.  People want to give their trust to a Leader, but can grow weary and suspect if their ‘Leader of choice’ doesn’t continually demonstrate through their actions.

In your career, I am sure you have come across Great Leaders & Great Managers.  Odds are you have also come across Poor Managers.  I am not sure if you can really call someone a Poor Leader.

  • There are Great Leaders, let’s give them an “A+” grade.
  • There are Good Leaders, let’s grade them a “B”.
  • I’m sure we could somehow quantify a “C” level Leader too.  Maybe they are ‘up & coming’?!
  • But to call someone a Poor Leader, is equivalent to an “F” grade.   I contend, if “F” is failing, then they are Not a Leader at all!

When we went to school, teachers generally graded our performance. We may on occasion correct our own homework, but when we are tested, we are graded by others.  In the same vain, if someone asked you: “Are you a Leader?,” what would you say? What kind of grade would you give yourself?  The fact is you can’t fairly grade yourself.  A leader needs to believe in him/herself, but they need others to have faith in them.  A Leader of 1 is merely a dreamer. Folks are essentially grading a leader highly by their willingness to follow them.

There have been countless books and articles written on the traits of a Leader, and what makes a Leader great?

  • Passion,
  • Charisma,
  • Vision,
  • Focus,
  • Commitment,
  • Courage,
  • Knowledge,
  • Sensitivity,
  • Service to others,
  • Action oriented,
  • Strong communication skills (listening & speaking).

You can add your own definition to this list. All the traits noted above are Learned or God Given.  The thing of it is… having all these attributes doesn’t necessarily make you a Leader.

Leadership is a gift, earned but never assumed. Other people call you a Leader.  Some folks are thrust into such positions, others long to reach that pinnacle.  I believe the Best Leaders, like cream, ultimately rise to the top. People recognize these traits and give their Leaders one very special gift. People put their “Trust” in them. People offer their allegiance, become followers, supporters.

There is nothing worse than being betrayed, to have your trust broken.  So Leaders are constantly being judged, and questioned.  How we view or grade our leaders over time can be harsh, romantic, idealistic, but what are they doing for us today?

Winners write the history books.  Sometimes we put our trust in the wrong people. Some Great Leaders, simply have the wrong platform or lead in the wrong direction.  So is a Poor Leader someone that leads their followers to defeat?  Was Robert E. Lee at Poor Leader?  I think not! I don’t want to confuse, Poor Leadership with Evil or just Bad self-obsessed people – think Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon.

People who are worried about their legacy, egos and personal accomplishments or what others will think about them in the future don’t score high in my leadership grading curve.  People who call themselves Leaders also need to take a step back.  It is okay to want to lead. It is fine & admirable to push an agenda or policy, but Leadership is only achieved when others give you the gift of their Trust and Respect.

I know a man who is well positioned to become a Leader, but I truly doubt he will ever achieve the trust & personal respect of others. This fellow is a great manager, but not a Leader.

  • He unfortunately, already considers himself a Leader.  Strike 1!
  • We were speaking about an opportunity to favorably impact his organization & the community. His reaction was, ‘”We do enough now. Our support is ‘Sufficient’.”  Strike 2!
  • He said, “There are other priorities and administrative matters that require his time and energy.” Strike 3!

Some positions come with control & authority. There is a ‘level of positional Respect’ that others must show to the person in said position.  In the military, you must show respect for your superior. The same applies in business. You can respect the position but you don’t need to respect the person. That is a key differentiator between a manager & a leader.

  • Management is positional.
  • Control & Authority are also largely positional.
  • Trust & Respect are conditional.
  • Positional Respect is assumed.
  • Personal Respect is earned.
  • Leadership is a Gift, earned but never assumed.
  • Trust is also a Gift, earned but never assumed.

Both Trust & Leadership must constantly be earned. It is not a 1 time event.  Great responsibility & accountability come with these gifts. There are other benefits including control, power, access that also accompany Leadership. Be careful not to abuse them. We are all human.  We all fall down on occasion, even our Leaders.  That is why a Great manager is a far easier to find compared to a Great Leader.

So are you a Leader or a Manager?  Did you learn anything?

Continued Blessings!

Chris O’Connor

President – ProCFO4U

“Your Trusted Alternative to a full time CFO”

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 3, 2013 7:28 AM

    Very good information. Lucky me I found your site by accident
    (stumbleupon). I have saved as a favorite for later!

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