What is the difference between managers and leaders?

What sets them apart?

I have found over the years running various different companies that not all good managers go on to make great leaders. That might sound strange but I have always been a big believer in differentiating between managing a group of people and leading a company. The best leaders are the ones who are always looking to move the business they run onto the next stage of its development.

However, being a good manager is a skill that is developed over time and comes with plenty of experience. Knowing how to deal with your workforce on an individual and collective basis is a vital part of any well run organization or business. It has long been a mantra of mine that the key ingredients of any successful business are the people who work for it.

Get the right mixtures of people working for you and you will be well on the road to success. Having the right management team in place is a prerequisite if you want to ensure that your workforce is going to operate to its full potential. But being a great leader involves a completely different set of skills and many businesses often make the mistake of failing to differentiate between the two.

When I am looking to elevate someone to a leadership role within one of my companies, I am looking for a very specific set of qualities. I am looking for people who have passion, commitment, conviction and most important of all – vision. The need for a strong leadership team should never be underestimated; it’s that team that will really make the difference on every level. People like to know that the company they are working for has a clear sense of direction and purpose.

Generally speaking if you want commitment from your staff then you have to demonstrate to them that the executive team shares that commitment. The commitment that employees make to the company they work for should never be underestimated or undervalued. That is why identifying the right caliber of people to fill leadership roles is so important.

I have found that too many companies, particularly those run by owner-managers, do not think about succession planning until it is too late. Not planning properly for the future can be a fatal mistake, as a company without a proper leadership team in place is always going to fail. The trick to having a successful succession strategy in place is to park your ego and look at the situation in a logical way.

Not everyone can be around forever, and if truth be told, often a company can benefit from having a fresh injection of talent and ideas right at the very top. I would say it is vital to identify people who are going to lead a company forward rather than just manage the business.

That is why it is so important to differentiate between management and leadership. Once you have done that, the next thing to do is place your trust in the new leadership team, take a step back and let them get on with the job.


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