Moving From Manager to Leader


Most leaders spend time trying to get others to think highly
of them, when instead they should try to get their people to
think more highly of themselves.
It’s wonderful when the people believe in their leader.
It’s more wonderful when the leader believes in their people!”
Booker T. Washington

 “The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.”
 George Eliot

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word manage as to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction of something like a business or a baseball team.  Webster’s defines the word lead as “to guide on a way especially by going in advance”.  There is a great deal of advice currently available regarding management and leadership techniques.  Far be it from me to presume that I can necessarily improve the current thinking on management and leadership by adding my two cents to the mix.  I will, however, offer a few observations.

 What stands out to me regarding the above definitions is that, while both speak to giving direction, only one indicates being in front.  A manager gives direction while a leader “leads the way”.  I have to believe this creates significantly different circumstances for those being given direction.  For example, “Men, go take out that machine gun nest!” as opposed to “Follow me men, we’re going to take out that machine gun nest!”  Danger is implicit in both these examples.  However, only one involves risk on the part of the individual giving the direction.  I offer this extreme example in order to illustrate a point.

 Taking responsibility for the work done by others should include not only caring about the outcome of their efforts but also caring about the people themselves.  It also requires a willingness to take the same risks one would expect others in their charge to take.  That involves making choices on the part of the person giving direction.

 Some of those choices can be illustrated in the following comparisons:

 One can choose to tell others what to do OR show others what to do by being part of the exercise whatever it may be.

  • One can choose to assign blame for failures and accept the credit for success OR give credit for success and accept responsibility for the failures.
  • One can choose to expect his people to look up to him OR look to his people and after his people to accomplish the task at hand.

 Many folks are “in charge” of others.  Some exhibit a great deal of skill in how they fulfill their role as someone with those responsibilities.  Their titles are irrelevant.  Whether someone functions as a manager or a leader is their choice.  If you want to know if someone is a manager or a leader, don’t ask them; ask the folks they give direction to.

 For the record, I believe you can also be a leader while not being responsible for the work of others.  That involves the choice of being responsible to others by setting a positive example.  Making that choice requires some other words such as honesty, integrity and reliable.  So the question is, what will your choice be, to lead or just manage?

 Here to serve,

 John Duba

 Next monthUndercover Boss

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