A tough question that often comes up within the interview scenario is, “can you tell me the difference between a leader and a manager”? At first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking that there is no difference at all, but on closer inspection the difference is quite significant. Before you tackle the question, think about who you’ve worked with before, or give some thought as to who inspires you. What attributes and skills do they demonstrate? How do they manage, or indeed how do they lead? Do they even do anything in particular, or is what they do so subtle, it appears to come naturally?
The difference when you really start to think is clear. Management of something actually requires tasks and projects to be completed within a given time frame. Accountabilities and targets need to be set, and a plan of action needs to be figured out. A manager would be the person co-ordinating these things. A leader however, doesn’t necessarily have to manage anyone. This person is someone who by default is respected by his or her team, leads by example and commands the following of others, without actually managing, or indeed forcing anyone to achieve this. Just the fact that a good leader is there, often commands effective leadership if they bring the right skills to the table.
So, how does one become an effective leader? Airlines define certain skills they wish their pilots to demonstrate on a daily basis. Many of these are designed to create, or set the tone right from the start. How would you go about this? In many cases you have a very small window of opportunity to achieve a positive first impression. You must greet people positively, smile and make eye contact, and look to inspire others around you. Engage with your team and be the supportive, yet relaxed and professional person colleagues look for in their leaders. Look to inspire, whilst coaching and training, and of course offer positive feedback where possible. That’s leadership.
Management requires structure, and good management will more often than not, demonstrate good leadership. Look to use process and efficiency when making decisions, delegate tasks and set bottom lines. Management of a situation requires you to actually take charge of something, whereas leadership should come naturally and not look false, or be forced.
Essentially, an effective leader doesn’t actually have to do very much to lead, but a manager does have to manage.