Why You Should be Both a Leader and a Manager

There’s this ongoing debate in management consulting circles over which approach is best: the manager approach or the leader approach? Up until about 15 or so years ago, the manager approach was all the rage. Your average supervisor was large and in charge, not necessarily walking soft, but always carrying a big stick, and subordinates were expected to nod and take orders.

Then, just around the turn of the century, things began to change. A question was repeatedly heard… “Isn’t it better to lead by example and work together toward common goals than have a subservient relationship wherein employees achieve results primarily out of fear of consequences?” And, with that question came quite a resounding answer: “Yes. Management should be focused on true leadership.”

What’s the difference? In the simplest of terms, a leader is someone who is self-aware. She knows what she is capable of accomplishing and understands her own strengths and weaknesses. She knows how to recognize strengths and weaknesses in others, and can leverage them all together for the betterment of the team. She is also in touch with the latest communication channels and management tools and knows how to use them in creative ways to achieve the best results. Most importantly, a leader is focused on example-setting and demonstrates the corporate culture through her own actions.

Based on this information, it’s probably pretty easy to see why the shift occurred—a leader just sounds like a more pleasant person to work for. However, and the downside may be easy to see, many managers wind up as friends instead of authority figures, making it very difficult for both sides of the table when a heavy hand is needed. The fix? Merging the two approaches, and the example begins with the CEO.

Here’s how the role would look:

  • Establishing the guidelines in both word and action, enforcing the role of authority while also setting an example that tells others to ‘do as I do.’
  • Taking the time to understand staff members, their personal career goals, and how they work on a daily basis so you can get the most from their performance.
  • Understanding when it’s time to make the tough call—whether it be an operational decision to close a facility, or just to make a management change, the key is to do so strategically and consistently.
  • Exude your passion and commitment in everything you do; whether it’s an act of management or leadership, carrying it out with the passion you have for your job and the organization is imperative to getting and keeping loyal and hardworking followers.

Not only should you be abiding by these guidelines, but also encouraging your management team to operate in the same way. You can be a good manager by instructing them how to go about achieving this blend the right way, while being a good leader by demonstrating it with regularity.