Coffee CupYou are a leader. People are making decisions based on your example which makes you a leader. It doesn’t matter where you are in your leadership. You could be a Fortune 500 CEO or a single mother. You are leading someone through your influence.

In the early part of my career, I used to think of managers as leaders and leaders as managers. I used the terms manager and leader interchangeably. I quickly learned that a manager is a leader in title only but the title does not mean that they are leading.

Influence vs. Mandate

Leaders have the influence to do the right things by helping the people they lead to make good decisions. Though influence, followers are motivated to help a leader because they trust the leader. Your followers want to follow you because they have a say in decision making. Influential leaders are like a rope that pulls their followers. It’s easy to follow an influential leader because you want to follow them.

Managers have the mandate to get things done. As a manager, you are given a management title. You use people who work for you to complete assignments and tasks. In other words, you get work done. As a manager, people are a resource, a worker, an employee. Using your manager title solely to get work done will cause you to struggle with getting your subordinates to do what you want or need to be done. It is tough because you are pushing a rope.

Verb vs. Noun

John Maxwell says leadership is a verb. A verb represents an action or a state of being. You earn your influence through your actions as a leader. Because of your actions, you are trusted by your followers.

Management is a noun. A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. You are granted authority to make decisions as a manager. You are given this responsibility and are held accountable for getting work done.

When to lead, when to manage

Leading is acting out of love for the people who follow you. You are a servant leader who provides a service to those who follow you. Leaders have high character and have an established integrity. Your integrity is a result of your ability to lead yourself first and then leading others.

“Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing.“
– Warren Bennis

Let me be clear. A leader is not better than a manager and a manager is not better than a leader. You need to be both. The trick is knowing when to be a leader and when to be a manager.

If you are not a manager, you can still lead. You don’t need the title to be a leader. If you are a manager don’t rely on your position alone to get things done.

Sometimes, a decision just needs to be made or work just needs to get done. In these times, you need to be a manager and make a decision. When you choose to lead you influence the success of your followers. Look for opportunities to influence your follower’s decisions.

In your current role, where are opportunities to lead more?

What key traits make you want to follow a leader?

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