Disclaimer: This is not me taking a shot at any one manager in particular but instead a collective piece on all of my observations over years of working. So if you manage(d) me, though I hope you do take something from this article, please don’t take it personally. I’m not (only) talking about you.
A leader must be many things but two things that an effective leader must be are a worker and a manager. If you want to get things done as a leader, you must let your team know that you know how to do them and are not above doing them. I once read a monumental saying: “A leader with no one following them is merely taking a walk.” A title does not make a leader, followers do. I don’t know anyone who wants to follow someone who isn’t willing to do what they’re asking others to do. Even though President Obama, like many presidents, has never served in the military, he puts his life and his family’s lives on the line daily for this nation. Though he has never directly taken a life, he has made the decision to have thousands taken. He is leading and doing it effectively.
Secondly, the ability to effectively manage your resources is critical to the success of a leader. If Phil Jackson had put Michael Jordan at center, Dennis Rodman at point guard, Steve Kerr at power forward, and Scottie Pippen at shooting guard, he would’ve been the worst coach in the history of the NBA. Success as a leader is all about knowing what resources you have and giving them the proper tasks. Resources like time, strengths of people on your team, technology, finances, and your network must be appropriately managed in order to lead. But one more thing that must be managed properly is yourself. As the leader, your time is key. You are the one with the vision. So, though you must be a worker, you cannot spend the majority of your time doing menial tasks while there are bigger fish to fry. Let’s say you manage a grocery store and you’ve had 3 cashiers call out of work on a Thursday. You, as the manager should not spend all day on a register. There are still 3 other cashiers. But when the line gets unbearably long, you need to be up there on that fourth register, relaying two things to your team: 1) the customer is our number one priority and 2) I am here when needed to support the team in whatever way I can.
Ok, so a leader is a manager but doesn’t that make a manager a leader too? Not necessarily. Just like a square is always a rectangle is a square but a rectangle isn’t always a square, the same is true with the relationship between leaders and managers. I have a friend who works as an executive assistant to someone who requires many tasks to be done but believes that doing those tasks are beneath him and are not worth his time (even down to copy and pasting the text from an email into a word document). Such a person is merely managing my friend but is not willing to do the grunt work that goes along with the job. Managers make you feel undervalued because they rarely walk in your shoes. They manage their resources but tend to leave very little on their plates. They observe you working but don’t teach because it has been so long since they’ve done the work involved in the role that they honestly couldn’t teach you if they tried. I don’t know about you but I never want to just be a manager. Those are the people who are too far removed from the process to inspire their team. As a matter of fact, those are the people who don’t manage a team; they manage employees. There is no sense of comradery because there is no one person bringing the team together.
There is a thin line between leadership and management. That line is called “integrity.” Integrity is what makes your team want to keep working without and the lack of it is what makes your employees hate working under you.