The Role of Leaders

There’s been a lot of discussion, especially recently, around the difference between leaders and managers.  The difference comes down to a few factors.

  1. What vs How: 

Managers are focused on the execution of tasks and on the “what” – what are we doing, what is the timeline, what are the steps, and so on.  

Leaders are focused on the “how” – how work gets done across the team and the organization, setting the cultural tone for the organization and inspiring others to follow and solidify that culture in the day-to-day flow of the work.  Leaders look around corners to see what’s coming and think about how the team is going to face what comes next together.

  1. Me vs We: 

Managers make decisions that are driven by elevating their own agenda and ideas, putting the “me” first in their actions.  

Leaders make decisions based on what is going to elevate and drive the team and the mission forward.  They focus on the “we” and lifting others up around them.

  1. For vs With: 

Managers often like to tell others “this person works for me” and they often push for work through threat of fear and intimidation rooted in not wanting the work to slip for fear they themselves might look bad.  They often forget to articulate the “why behind.”

Leaders often say “this person works with me” because they see their leadership as a role on the team, not a rank or privilege.  And that role is to inspire and motivate their team, setting a vision and giving credit to the team when things go right while taking responsibility (or being accountable) when things go wrong.

The job of a leader is to create an environment where people are able to execute and bring their best self to work.  That’s it.