My general reading pattern is to read a fun book like Fifty Shades of Grey (yes I’m serious) and a business book at the same time. The last few business books I’ve read have really got me thinking about the differences between leaders and managers.
Pick up a book on leadership…any book. Take a course on leadership…any course. Talk to a leader…any leader. If you do that, you’ll find a lot of similarity in how people describe a leader. I think too often we confuse managers with leaders. There’s a tiny bit of overlap between the two, but make no mistake a great manager does not necessarily make a great leader.
History has shown us time and again that a small, but motivated army under the direction of a great leader will best a larger army with a great manager or tactician at the helm. The famous Battle of Thermopylae, on which the fantastic movie 300 is based upon, shows us that as far back as 480 BC, great leaders trump great managers on the battlefield. Fast forward hundreds of years to the battle for our Nation’s independence, and again we see a small army under tremendous leadership besting a much larger foe.
I have a personal belief that military history and strategy is very relatable and can be applied often to the world of business. This idea that great leaders can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles is not limited to war. Hardly. Decades of history show us that companies rise under great leaders and fall under poor ones.
Too often an organization makes the critical mistake of elevating a tremendous manager into a leadership role. The traits that made a person a great manager who delivers “numbers” doesn’t exactly match up to the traits needed to lead an organization. Has this not been the Microsoft vs. Apple story for the past 20 years? Isn’t this what we’ve also seen with Yahoo!? It wasn’t until Marissa Mayer took over as a LEADER that the string of great managers thrust into the CEO role was broken. Look at the results to see if it’s working. It is.
I stumbled upon this great chart that outlines the characteristics between leaders and managers:
We’ve all worked for a manager before. Many of us have been managers. There’s nothing wrong with a manager. However, a manager does not necessarily equal a leader. Over my 15 years in business the biggest differentiator between leaders and managers is how they motivate an army/employee base/team to take action. Managers are often focused on short term objectives and motivate through a command and control mindset where hierarchy is very important. A leader focuses long term and inspires all around them to focus on the greater mission.
Despite centuries of history to lean on companies still continue to elevate exceptional managers who lack leadership qualities into leadership roles. I’m constantly baffled by these decisions, especially when they have happened in organizations that I’ve been a part of. When it happens, the head scratching takes place across the entire organization. When that happes you have an unfocused work force. You also end up with other top aspiring leaders becoming demotivated. When that happens, when your Colonels, Majors and Captains become demotivated, it spreads to the rank and file. This all leads to poor individual performance, which leads to poor financial performance. It happes like dominos, 1 by 1.
What stumps me is why this keeps happening?