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What separates a leader from a manager?

If I were to ask you to think of a person who has made a lasting and positive impact on your workplace, educational space or life beyond, I’m sure most of you could muster up one or more examples. This is heightened especially by the surge of management courses available to senior staff, helping them become truly inspirational figureheads for the teams that they lead. On the flipside, if you’re struggling to think of even one person, you might not be in the right industry, workplace or institution and if that’s the case, we can help you create a better environment for yourself. Click here to tee up a free phone consultation with one of our Career Advisors.

It’s no secret that we are unable to thrive or flourish in an environment where we are not managed properly, which leads to job dissatisfaction, apathy towards the business and an overall resentment of management. Before you know it, you’re handing in a sudden and unexpected job resignation and employers are losing skilled and talented staff.

The truth is, great leaders help shape great people. It’s a common misconception that people only ever leave bad jobs; people also leave bad managers. Which prompted us to consider, what does it takes to move from being a manager… to a great leader? Whether it’s due to an innate, natural ability or the result of partaking in one or more leadership and management courses, these are some of the traits we have recognised as key distinguishers.

Leaders put their people first

One powerful quality of a great leader is the capacity to genuinely care for the health and well-being of their employees. We’re talking real, sincere concern for the mental, physical and emotional state of the people they look after. Have you ever shown up to work sick and your manager has turned a blind eye to your sniffing and coughing without so much as asking if you are okay? Doesn’t feel so great. As human beings, we are often compelled to reciprocate acts of goodwill and this does not stop at the doors of the workplace If leaders show their people that they care about them, they will in turn receive the same treatment. Leaders who care about their team are more likely to reap the benefits of increased productivity, efficiency and more importantly, boost company loyalty.

Leaders are honest and open

Ever had a manager who could rival a politician with their vague and ambiguous answers to tough questions? A leadership team deals with a variety of challenging situations, from day to day changes to huge company-wide restructures. When it comes to communicating these pivotal reforms to the whole business operation, honesty should always be key. This is because employees are always concerned over their job security, especially in the corporate world, and a manager who can honestly relay information to their staff (without breaching the due confidentiality) transcends the title of “manager” and becomes a great leader. These skills are usually learnt over time through a combination of on the job and personal experience, as well as ongoing training and courses.
If you’re a manager looking to refine your leadership skills or be on par with industry best practices, click here.

Managers, micro-manage

Employees are hired to carry out a job because someone within the business determined that they possessed the necessary skills and experience to see it executed at a high level. Countless sources will recite (like a broken record) the dangers of micro-managing skilled and experienced staff. Let’s face it, nobody wants to feel like their work is being continuously undermined or controlled. This only creates an atmosphere of distrust between manager and employee, with the latter falling under the impression that they are not good enough to autonomously carry out their tasks. Employees can quickly feel trapped, suffocated, anxious and stressed. On the contrary, it takes a great leader to know when to let go and let their people take charge.

Other traits of a leader:

  • A good sense of humour
    Not every day will be a good day, so a leader that can crack a joke in a tough situation can help ease employee pressure and boost mood and morale.
  • Assertiveness
    It’s not all fun and games and when push comes to shove, people admire a leader who is able to take control of a tricky situation and confidently face and handle arising problems.
  • Emotional control
    It might take every ounce of control in their body but a great leader will be able to think and speak without letting their emotions govern their actions. While emotional sentiment is human, when it comes to the workplace, letting feelings like anger or sadness rule can only ever lead to regrettable outbursts.

Many workplaces have already made the move to exclude the job title of “manager” from their senior level teams. This is a progressive shift for many companies wanting to move towards fostering an appealing and rewarding workplace culture that attracts quality staff and increases employee retention.

A lot of people are unaware how outdated their management style might be. What worked for our predecessors will not work today and relying on “old school” approaches to management will hinder a company’s development. It is always ideal to take a leadership or business management course that will help you polish your current skillset, it will equip you with the necessary tools to be the kind of leader that truly inspires and builds people.

Having said all that, can you tell us: are you a manager, or are you a leader ?

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What separates a leader from a manager?