Good leaders are not always good managers and vice-versa: the terms are not mutually exclusive as some might believe. While it’s true that they can go hand in hand, more often than not a person is defined as one or the other—it’s a truly rare individual who maintains a penchant for both side of the coin.
Being a good manager is all about understanding the needs of those on your team, maintaining a sense of accountability, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of a team environment, improving workflow process and other quantitative metrics that are generally used as the yardstick for success in the business world. Being a good leader, on the other hand, is about instilling confidence in your team, going up to bat for the people you’re working with, gauging the morale of your peers and paving the way for success on all levels of the playing field.
Too often in the struggle to achieve a harmony between these two roles, a person will naturally drift to one side or the other, based on their personal and professional traits. A goal oriented manager concerned about project deadlines may sacrifice some of their rapport when crunch time closes in, while a sympathetic leader might fall short on paper when it comes to quantitative assessments, while earning the respect and allegiance of their peers. It’s a give and take system.
The key to treading the fine line between manager and leader comes about in merging the traits of both together and defining that middle ground, rather than trying to stay on one side or the other. To do that, a person needs to:
- Communicate goals, expectations and accountability standards clearly. When peers understand what’s expected of them, it allows you to react accordingly without overcompensating in harshness or leniency. Accountability is key.
- Create an honest and open feedback system that allows you to stay on the same page as your team. Mistrust and lack of exchange can breed dissonance, which will absolutely force your hand into playing one side of the coin versus the other.
- Understand the important difference between constructive criticism and plain criticism. Helping your team to grow through teaching experiences versus expecting them to grow through negative feedback will grow an entirely different set of expectations in the long run.
- Never underestimate the power of praise and the value of creating moments of success. Putting people in a position to succeed and lauding them for their accomplishments will serve to foster a workplace of self-governance and pride in the work being done.
Realizing that you don’t have to sacrifice managerial skills to be a good leader or give up quality leadership traits to be a sound manager can absolutely change the way your office environment thrives. And, while the two may not be mutually exclusive, they can absolutely be complementary given the right approach. Take time to evaluate where you currently land as a manager and a leader and take the appropriate action to create synergy between the two roles.
This post was written by Dr. Stephen C. Schoonover