I’m now a leader. What does that really mean?

Do you recognise when you are being a leader at work? Do you recognise when you are being a manager?

Clarifying the distinctions between the two roles often arises when I’m working with workplace leaders. Especially with managers new to the role, or team leaders lower down in the organisation’s hierarchy who have not been privy to the discussions and decisions that they then have to make happen.

Manager or leader? Defining the differences is an early focus of management training courses. In reality, the two roles are closely integrated and whatever their title, a manager or team leader needs to be both. All of the time.

For that reason I suspect it’s worth revisiting the distinctions. ‘Leading’ is identified as one of the four roles of a manager: planning, organising, leading and controlling. A traditional definition of management is the planning, organising, leading and controlling of human and other resources to achieve organisational goals effectively and efficiently.

It’s fairly easy to identify what we do in planning, organising and controlling activities within our areas of responsibility. It’s also very easy to focus on these tasks, when they can be all-consuming of time and energy.

It’s far less easy define what we need to do to be a leader. And, just as importantly, how we can behave like a leader at all times – instead of just at staff meetings or in passing on announcements from the boss.

Consider these definitions of leadership:

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. Warren G. Bennis
The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make a system’s weaknesses irrelevant. Peter Drucker

..leadership is not about pointing out what is wrong and how to fix it, but rather the ability to engage others in what is possible, and with an authentic voice, ask who will care. I believe we need a language of leadership that inspires hope and trust. Michael Silver

• Are you clear about the vision for your organisation?
• What does it mean for you? For your team?
• What do you do to convey that vision and make it a reality for your  team?
• How do you bring out the strengths of your team members?
• What do you do now to engage your team? What more could you do?
• What does hope and trust mean for you?

These are questions worth exploring – in conversations with your coach, and in your leadership team meetings. It’s probably never too late to revisit the reasons for decisions made – clarifying assumptions, plugging holes in understanding, exploring different perspectives and building collaboration and trust in the group.

Finally, listen to what Simon Sinek says about leadership: You have to know why you do what you do. If you don’t know why… how will anyone else? You have to have clarity of why.

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