John and Sara work at company XYZ. John has a great group of people working for him. Sara also has a great group of people working with her. More often than not, John’s people achieve their deliverables on schedule while Sara’s team has received several awards for projects that have come in on schedule and under budget.
John has regular meetings with his staff notifying them of the next project. He provides his plan, makes the assignments and follows up with them frequently to ensure the goals are met. John uses the staff meeting to get updates on the project from his team.
With each new project, Sara has a kick-off meeting where the team brainstorms approaches to accomplish the project. Together, the team develops the plan and volunteers for their project roles. Sara always encourages team members to take on new roles and ensures a mentor is available to those with a new role. Sara meets with each team member weekly to address any concerns or requests for help that may be needed. Sara is alert to the need for training, additional resources and burnout.
Leader vs. Manager
A manager is a title or a role assigned to an individual. It says nothing about the interaction with people. It is a mere status assigned to a position. A leader can be anyone, at any time, regardless of status. Being a leader has nothing to do with title, seniority or position within an organization. A leader creates other leaders. A leader builds confidence in others. A leader empowers others to be the best they can be, to strive for greatness, to think outside the box.
Don’t Be A Fraud
Most of what you will learn being a great leader will come from experience and observation. Read books or take professional coursework to help you along the way. A primary way to dishonor your leadership skills is to pretend to be something you are not. Don’t be a fraud, educate yourself. Be eager to learn and enroll in professional coursework or even a degree program to understand the basics. Working a full time job and taking coursework is possible. More and more organizations offer education programs to fit the needs of a busy professional. Schools like Penn Foster offer many different avenues to achieve your associate degree in business management.
Vision vs. Execution
A leader strategically drives toward the vision. A manager executes the plan to achieve the vision. The manager is tactical in his work toward the vision. This does not mean a manager does not see the vision, it means he or she is better adept at seeing the moving parts involved in executing the vision. The leader sees the future state. He or she may not know all the tactical steps needed to get there, but is the visionary who is leading the effort.
In the example above, John is a manager. He gets the job done and is ready for the next task. He achieves his goal — to complete the project. Sara sees her goal as a much bigger vision. She completes the project but has secondary goals in mind. Her vision is to grow and empower her team. She sees the bigger vision. Sara is a leader.