Managers versus Leaders

We have a monthly company manager’s meeting where we talk about what’s going on in our areas, do some training and activities and have people take turns presenting on topics that really interest them. There’s a subset of us that plan and run the meetings and we got together this week to discuss the agenda for August.

As always with our group (especially thanks to one member), we got off track for a philosophical discussion that extended our meeting considerably.

The topic: managers versus leaders.

From Merriam-Webster:

Manager :
a : a person who conducts business or household affairs b : a person whose work or profession is management c (1) : a person who directs a team or athlete (2) : a student who in scholastic or collegiate sports supervises equipment and records under the direction of a coach the act or art of managing : the conducting or supervising of something (as a business)

a : guide, conductor b (1) : a person who directs a military force or unit (2) : a person who has commanding authority or influence c (1) : the principal officer of a British political party (2) : a party member chosen to manage party activities in a legislative body (3) : such a party member presiding over the whole legislative body when the party constitutes a majority d (1) : conductor c (2) : a first or principal performer of a group

Those are pretty dry definitions. A leader, in my opinion, is someone who inspires others, challenges the status quo, sets stretch goals for self and others, encourages growth in others while seeking growth in self and models exemplary behaviors.

We tend to call the supervisors, managers and directors in our company the “Leadership” team. But, let’s face it, a gifted leader is a rare breed and just having a title doesn’t make you a leader. In fact, we have some pretty powerful leaders in our company who lack any direct management role.

After debating definitions, we went on to ponder who managers turn into leaders. Is it an innate ability? Does it take a mentor/role model to show how to lead? Or, is it some combination of both things?

If it’s innate, then our group may be wasting time on trying to develop leaders. If it can be a learned trait, then what can we do to teach it?

If I knew the answers, I’d write a book and become the next Drucker. Frankly, I could use the cash from a long-time best selling tome. As it is, I can only try to lead more than manage in my role and provide opportunities for our management group members to develop and flex their leadership muscles.


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