What’s the difference between a Leader and a Manager?
I get asked this question a lot when I do seminars and workshops. And even when I do 1-to-1 consulting. It’s a great question because it can be confusing to distinguish between the two roles. Here's how I see it.
A Leader has a vision and they share that vision with others as they try to move the company where they see it should be, so they end up where they want to go.
A Manager is busy getting the day to day stuff handled so the Leader can focus on the direction and the vision.
Important: Leaders and Managers are both critical to the long-term success of any business.
But, there’s one issue in particular that pops up a lot when I work with clients. That is when there is both a Leader and a Manager but they do not share the same vision and so they’re busy plotting separate courses for the company. It's akin to being in a car barreling down the highway with four people wrestling to grab the steering wheel and drive. Nothing good is going to happen in this scenario.
What’s also missing is an agreed upon step-by-step procedure on how to get to the leader's vision or what I call their “promised land.”
Many of the companies I’ve worked at have partners who tend to settle into one of these two roles—leader or manager. It can bring on great tension when they don’t communicate well enough or are dismissive of one another’s role in this process.
Worse yet for me is when I discover through the course of our work that one owner is a true visionary leader. And he can see a mile down the road. He sees exactly where the company needs to be.
The bad news is he’s got absolutely no idea how to get there in a methodical and doable way.
It’s gets even worse when the other owner is only interested and immersed in the business as it exists today. That owner handles the day-to-day to the point of having their head down and walking a block at a time—slowly.
The bad news there is that person is so head down that they’re busy walking a block at a time alright but they’re walking in exactly the opposite direction of the other owner’s vision for the company and their view of a mile down the road.
What fixes this dilemma?
The first thing I do is have them go through the Leadership Power! exercises with me and that seamlessly leads us to engage Planning Power!
Here’s the thing. You need to get all the Leaders and Managers in one room and hammer all of this out. My Leadership Power Process walks everyone through a series of exercises that gets each person to share his or her vision for the company starting with what is going on at the company today. Then, where they would want it to be three years from now and five years from now.
I make them put real numbers to their stated goals such as how big will the company be when it comes to total sales revenue? How many trucks would be rolling each day? What products and services will they be selling then? And finally, what are they committed to doing to make this happen? And an integral part is getting them to share their individual beliefs as to why they believe this can come to pass.
I have them create:
- Goals that have real numbers
- A written Leadership Power binder so they have it as a reference guide. Think of it as their GPS when they drift from the goal
- An agreed upon vision of where they want the company to be and in what timeframe
Finally, I have them transition to Planning Power! which is where we create a big list of projects and habits that, in effect, are how we’re going to crank this mile down the road a block at a time. This gets everyone headed in the same direction so all are traveling steadily mile by mile down the right road.
Planning Power! demands that this team filter their big Master List down to a Top 30 list and finally once again down to a Top Five list of projects or habits that both Leaders and Managers commit to working on every week no matter how crazy things are.
The great news I can share is that Leaders and Managers (and the owners who fill these various roles as partners) gain a new respect for the vital role one another plays—once they’re on the same page.
A vital ingredient to staying on the same page is the commitment to well-run weekly meetings that the Leadership and Management Team participates in using my 10 Golden Rules for Effective Meetings as a guide. This meeting helps them connect to the shared vision, the shared goal, the core beliefs and most of all the Top Five List which is how they make all this come to fruition.
In the end, Leaders are necessary to set the course and drive the company forward and Managers are necessary to make things happen each and every day and every week so that in the end the company succeeds and everyone gets where they want and need to be.