Why being a leader is different from being a manager

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Why being a leader is different from being a manager

A leader manages people, and a manager leads people, but, there’s a stark difference between the two traits – managing people and leading people. We all somehow, relate these two traits as the same, without ever analyzing it, because that’s what others tell us. Look at someone who has passed out from a reputed management school. He may never become a great leader. He may end up as a skilled manager, who will, perhaps, earn a hefty pay packet.
Leading people is different. Those who are great leaders have the innate ability to rise to the occasion. They have this extraordinary ability to communicate. Their speech rattles your spirit. It makes you want to believe in them. Leaders not just influence your mind, but they affect your spirit, which is more effective.

Though, it may happen that a great leader is also a great manager, or a vice- versa. However, it’s essential to understand why leaders are rated highly than managers. Why we fail to ever understand the reason that makes them different?

Why managers fail

I saw managers scramble to the top position just on the basis of their academic qualification. Unfortunately or fortunately our corporate system demands that managers should not only manage people or workplace, but should also be leaders to those they manage, which can be difficult. Now, the academic qualifications don’t guarantee that managers will be going to have the leadership qualities. Since, I worked in sales, I will take sales as an example. 

Many fail to make an impact as sales managers. They have been good as field sales person, when they were on their own, meeting clients and winning them. After their promotion, suddenly they find difficult managing their subordinates. This sudden rise puts them in a tormented situation. Though, few are willing to accommodate, and come to terms with the new position, still many fail. 

Managing salespeople as a profession can be difficult, largely because managers will have been inspiring sales guys who are directly connected with clients. The field salespeople may get disheartened, with the lack of response, or they may find the going tough, or they may fail to fulfil the commitments. It is precisely here the role of a manager is extremely crucial. He is the one who will lead these guys. He will have to come up with inspiring pep talk, to influence their spirits. 

The manager’s words should be able to make these sales guys fearless. His words will have to motivate them so much that the desire to perform overcomes all their fears and negative influences. This is the hallmark of a person who has leadership skills. How many such managers do we have in our system? 

Today corporate sector chooses managers with the best qualification. Qualifications are certainly valuable, but, leadership skills in managers are equally important to succeed in the tough competitive market scenario. 

Failure to recognize the value of leadership skills

How do we judge leaders? The best, of course, are the politicians. It doesn’t matter, which country you belong to, everyone keeps getting attracted towards those politicians in their own country who are powerful orators. Being an accomplished orator doesn’t guarantee that a politician will have to be a great leader, but it does definitely tells you that such a politician is more likely to have an impact, than those with poor oratory skills.

Corporate sector, I think has lost track of the right mix while choosing managers. They either fail to recognize the leadership skills, or don’t want managers with leadership skills. I will tell you a secret. Many in the corporate sector fear choosing managers with outstanding leadership skills because such people will grow in the company. They have the ability to influence people, and inspire their subordinates. More importantly, the top level bosses or the owners always seem getting impressed by these managers with great leadership skills. 

The middle level bosses, in particular, envy such leaders, and perhaps, more than envy, they fear them. Great and inspiring leaders are always on demand. Remember, it’s the leaders, who play a key role in uplifting social structures, and standards, and inspiring nations in each and every field.

By Rajiv Sighamony

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