Leadership vs. Management

As you move through the ranks of your company and take on more responsibility in leading other people, have you ever wondered: “Am I a leader or a manger?”

Is it important to make the distinction between leader and manager? Is there a difference?

Leadership and management can work together. However, each has its own facets and manifest in different ways. An individual can be a leader and a manger simultaneously.

Ideally, leadership and management skills are brought out in specific situations depending on the goal of the activity. The best leaders aren’t necessarily great managers and the best managers don’t always have fantastic leadership skills.

What makes a leader?

A leader is someone with a vision who sees the big picture and gains the trust of those around them. Leaders know how to:

  • Inspire and demonstrate a passion for their purpose.
  • Communicate their vision clearly and in a way that others want to take part in making it reality.
  • Connect with different types of people and bring them together.

Leaders can always envision the desired result of an activity or project even if they don’t know the details of how to arrive there. Leaders respect and trust their people to figure out the best way to achieve the end goal.

When we think of selecting leaders, there are very often psychological aspects that come into play. There are certainly stereotypes of leaders – which might not always result in the best person being selected for the job. Often we may assume that the loudest, most opinionated, or even critical person would be a good leader. But that isn’t typically the case. It is people with strong “interpersonal” skills and the ability to empathize that will usually be  the best leaders.

Technical competence can also be an overly weighted indicator of leadership ability. Being the smartest doesn’t equal leadership potential. Some very intelligent people lack the skills necessary to lead.

That is not to say that those who excel primarily at the technical aspects of their job can’t also be great leaders. There will always be situations when strictly technical leadership and guidance is necessary. Skilled researchers and compliance specialists who love the nitty gritty but maybe struggle with delegation or managing others should not be devalued if they don’t have ambitions to take on leadership positions.

Not everyone can be a leader – there must be people doing the leg work. And they are so important. Leaders should reward those who excel in technical roles and are content to continue doing what they do best.

What makes a manager?

Managers must also have vision and gain the respect of their people. However, managers know more about the “how” of reaching a desired result – the plans, inputs, and practices. A drawback of this can be some managers dive too deep into the details of a project. “Micromanagers” do exist. And in the sale tax world, it is very easy to get deep into the details.

Can managers become leaders? Yes!

Moving along the path from manager to leader requires shedding micromanagement tendencies. This can be a challenge in the sales tax field. There are so many details that need to be right! A small error like being one day off on a filing or using the wrong rate could cost your company millions of dollars. This simply isn’t a risk you’re willing to take as a manager! How do you feel confident that you don’t have to review and check everything every time? Through the development of leadership skills.

Moving to the Next Level

When you develop good communication skills, successfully train others on your team, and set the vision for your group as a manager – over time, these skills will boost your team’s ability and desire to meet your expectations.

You must be willing to let your team work independently and reach out to you for help as needed. Let them figure out options to tackle a project and bring them to you. As you make your decision, be highly communicative about your thought process. If a team member reaches the same conclusion as you, you’ll know they’re prepared for more responsibility and independent decision making.

However, remember that everyone has their own approach and that your way might not be the only way to get the same result. It’s a balance of having confidence in your answers and decisions while being open to other approaches.

The focus on good communication and trust in your team will help your team develop confidence in their ability to solve problems while simultaneously earning your trust. You’ll grow in your ability to delegate and appreciate the opportunity to concentrate on the activities only you can truly complete.

If you want to be a leader, you must give up some of what you’re doing today. If you don’t, how can you shift your focus to be more visionary? There are not enough hours in a day to get bogged down in micromanagement.

It should be noted that even if you’re not yet in a managerial position and don’t have a team of your own, there are many ways to display leadership qualities that can boost you to the next level. If you demonstrate forward thinking, share your ideas even if they go against the grain, encourage other members of your team or department, and have excellent communication skills, your superiors will take notice.

Measuring Success

To measure your success as a leader, you must examine the growth of your team and yourself.

Ask yourself, “Have my people grown, developed, and succeeded?” If the answer is yes, then you’ve found success as a leader. Leaders help their team make career moves and feel fulfilled at work. If the answer is no, you have not mastered the art of delegation and trusting your team to find their own way.

The second measure of success is self-awareness and personal growth. Do you understand how your team and others in your company see you? Have you solicited their feedback for ways you can improve?

Feedback should be a two-way street. If you can hear and incorporate your team’s feedback without getting defensive, not only will it help you take an honest look at how well you managed certain situations but also instill a sense of trust in your team that you value their opinions and you’re not only talking the talk but walking the walk.

Evaluating Your Position

Are you a leader, a manager, or a technical specialist? Is this where you’re most comfortable? Do you want to stay in your current position? There’s nothing wrong if you’re content in your current position. However, if you want to make a change, it will take personal evaluation of your skills and strengths and how they align with the requirements of the job at the next level.

If you want to advance your career but aren’t sure how, guidance from an outside perspective can help. We suggest you find a mentor! Try to get someone outside your group – and ideally outside your department. It helps if your mentor understands the type of work that you do but the most important factor is finding someone that you admire and respect – both professionally and personally. A mentor can be a source of support and direction no matter where you’re at in your career.  Here’s a very insightful article about asking for advice that might help you think about how you ask someone for their input.

While it might sound cliché, personality tests can be quite helpful in determining how your traits might help or hinder your performance in a management or leadership role. Tests that candidly points out how your personality may impact you in the workplace could help you predict how you might react in certain situations and recognize areas for personal growth. Use them!

You may be more ready to move into a management or leadership position than you realize. Don’t hesitate to reach out to others or seek insight from outside resources. We all need a push towards our next big opportunity sometimes. Someday, you’ll return the favor to someone else when you’re a leader.

Do you have other qualities that you think represent a leader or a manager? Have you struggled with the transition from one role to another in your career? Drop Diane a line and share your experience.

Posted on July 26, 2019