The distinction between leader and manager may have absolutely nothing to do with position or title. You can lead as a project team member, an association member, a parent, a researcher, a customer or an assistant.
The key difference: Leaders improve things. Managers maintain things. But let me get more specific about how:
Managers like information and facts. They may even show mastery of a job, topic, or craft. Managers attack problems and challenges to analyze them and solve them. Good managers know how to delegate projects and manage operations so that tasks and projects run smoothly.
Leaders have superior reasoning skills—and sound judgment. They know how to apply their information, facts, or skills to specific situations at the right time, in the right way, for the best outcome for all concerned.
Managers tend to pull isolated facts, data, and information together to see relationships and get their arms around their responsibilities and their department. Their viewpoint then becomes complex and vague as they communicate ideas to others.
Leaders, on the other hand, aim to break complex things down to the very simple so everyone understands. They have the capacity to see things from the other person’s perspective and engage on their level of understanding, their dreams, their interests.
Managers like to do things their way. They have great confidence and trust in their own expertise, experience, and control. They often guide discussions with declarative statements—and then ask who agrees or disagrees.
Leaders value collaboration. They like input from trusted sources. They listen with an open mind and weigh facts and ideas before rushing to accept or reject ideas as valid. They often guide discussions with strategic questions.
Managers dislike controversy. They see it as a waste of time and energy and detrimental to productivity. So when speaking to a group, their communication tends to be general and often vague so as to avoid offense, blame, or questions.
Leaders consider misunderstanding and disengagement the bigger dangers to productivity. So they aim for precise communication. They state goals, deliverables, expectations, and feedback clearly.
Managers demonstrate a variety of communication styles. Some communicate directly, frequently, and kindly; others communicate indirectly, infrequently, and disrespectfully. For the most part, whatever their personal style, these managers have communication habits that ensure control of processes and people.
Leaders, on the other hand, communicate directly, frequently, consistently, and tactfully. Their communication habits also demonstrate passion, engagement, and compassion. These last three attributes––passionately about their ideas, engaged with people, and demonstrating compassion for individuals––count most.
Managers always know how to do things.
Leaders always know why to do things.
Managing a project, a team, or an organization is a good thing. Leading a project, a team, or an organization is a grand thing.
Learn more ways to distinguish yourself as a leader rather than a manager in Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire and Get Things Done. Download an excerpt by clicking here or on the image below.