One of the questions I am most frequently asked is what are the key differences between a leader and a manager, and this is the best quote I have ever read, that succinctly describes those differences.
“There is a difference between leadership and management. Leadership is of the spirit management is of the mind. Managers are necessary, but leaders are essential. We must find managers who are not only skilled organizers, but inspired and inspiring leaders.” – Field Marshall Slim
I believe that you can buy someone’s physical presence, but you cannot buy loyalty, enthusiasm, or devotion. These you must earn. Successful organisations have leaders who focus on the future rather than cling to the past. Leaders bring out the best in people. They spend time developing people into leaders.
In my view, these are the qualities of a true leader:
- Leaders have a clear vision of what they are working towards. They don’t keep their vision a secret – they communicate it to their people.
- Leaders are consistent. They keep their principles and values at all times.
Leaders can and will do what they expect of others. They are prepared to walk the talk.
- Leaders are not threatened by competence. They enjoy promoting people and are quick to give credit to those who have earned it.
- Leaders enjoy developing their people into leaders, not followers. They train people to take on more challenging tasks and responsibilities. They develop people’s confidence.
- Leaders don’t betray trust. They can treat confidential information professionally.
- Leaders are concerned about getting things done. They don’t get embroiled in political infighting, gossip and backstabbing. They encourage those around them to do likewise.
- Leaders confront issues as they arise. They do not procrastinate. If something needs fixing, they do it right away, even if it is uncomfortable. The longer things are left, the more difficult they become.
- Leaders let people know how they are doing. They reward and recognise performance that is above expectations and they help people identify ways of improving poor performance.
- Leaders are flexible. They welcome change. They do not stick to an old position simply because it is more comfortable.
- Leaders are adaptable. They see change as an opportunity rather than a threat.
- Leaders are human. They make mistakes. When they do so, they readily admit it.
Leaders reflect on and learn from their mistakes. They see errors as a chance to improve their skills.
- Leaders enjoy challenge. They are prepared to take risks and encourage others to do likewise. If they fail, they treat the exercise as a learning experience.
- Leaders focus on the future, not the past. They anticipate trends and prepare for them. They develop a vision for their team and communicate it to them.
- Leaders are open to new ideas. They demonstrate their receptiveness by supporting change.
- Leaders treat staff as individuals. They give closer attention to those that need it and lots of space to those that deserve it.
- Leaders encourage and reward co-operation within and between teams.
Without managers the visions of leaders remain dreams. Leaders need managers to convert visions into realities. For continuous success, organisations need both managers and leaders; however, as most seem to be over-managed and under-led, they need to find ways of having both at the same time. Perhaps the best way to handle this paradox is for managers to aim to be managers when viewed from above, leaders when viewed from below and to remember that the need for leadership grows as we move up the organisation. This is only one of the challenges that can make working life fun.