Opinion: Leaders and managers – why we need both

by External26 Jun 2015
The terms ‘leaders’ and ‘managers’ are often used interchangeably in organisations to describe those with a higher level of responsibility. But are good managers automatically leaders? And does a star employee always make a good boss? Samuel Day shares his view.
Many businesses fall into the trap of believing that experience makes a good boss. However, while experience is valuable in managerial roles, an effective people manager – and there may be many scattered at all levels throughout a business - is someone who is both a manager and a leader and is skilled at combining the two to achieve a goal.
So what sets leadership and management apart? Leadership is about inspiring others to achieve a vision or shared objective and is about who you are as a person and your ability to influence, motivate and enable others.
Management on the other hand is about executing a vision in a systematic way and through directing people. Reliant on control, management centres on systems and processes and revolves around the planning, allocation and measurement of work and resources.
Leadership and management must go hand-in-hand. A leader without management skills will struggle to bring a vision into reality while a manager who cannot lead will struggle to gain the support and trust of his or her team and lose engagement.
People who are good at their jobs are often promoted into leadership positions, tasked with managing a team and are expected to do this well. However, not all people managers are effective leaders, and in today’s world it takes both to mobilise a workforce and move a business forward.
Attributes of an effective leader
Leaders have an ability to attract followers - people who want to be led by them, and they do this through earning respect. Leaders embody six important traits, which they need to demonstrate on a daily basis in order to gain respect and be seen as authentic:
  • Confidence and a desire to lead – Leaders have a strong desire to influence others. They demonstrate a willingness to take responsibility and possess the self-confidence required to convince their team of the rightness of goals and decisions.
  • Trustworthiness –leaders must be seen to be trustworthy and reliable by those around them. Honesty and integrity are essential for building trusting relationships and failure to do this will undermine a leader’s legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of his or her team. To be regarded as someone with integrity, a strong consistency between word and deed is essential, as lip service or hypocrisy can quickly build frustration and resentment in the team.
  • Drive and passion - Leaders possess a strong desire to succeed. They are ambitious and exhibit a high effort level, persistence in their activities and a passion for the work they do.
  • Far-sightedness – Leaders need to rally others around a shared vision, which means they need to envision a successful future and be able to help others do the same. Being able to paint a picture of a bright future and instill confidence in the people you lead is one of the most important traits in a leader.
  • Knowledgeable – Effective leaders are intelligent and have a high degree of knowledge about the company, industry, and technical matters. In-depth knowledge allows leaders to make well-informed decisions and to understand the implications of those decisions.
  • Compassionate – there is a greater emphasis on corporate social responsibility and work with a purpose in today’s environment and leaders who value the welfare of their staff, customers and the community are seen as being increasingly important.
  • Innovative – Innovative leaders need not be the ones that come up with the great ideas but they certainly can recognise one when they see it and must have the ability to create a vision around the idea and a path to make it a reality. In addition to having a powerful imagination, they understand the importance of embracing differences for the purpose of innovation and are skilled at bringing a diverse workforce together to challenge the status quo. 
  • Leave a legacy - leaders leave behind a stamp on the organisations they serve –something that represents a body of their work, for which they will be remembered. Famous leaders such as Steve Jobs were skilled in building and leaving behind a legacy that guides sustainability for the success they created.
In a people-driven economy where a company’s greatest asset lies in its staff, the ability of those in managerial positions to not only manage but also lead is one paramount to success.  Management and leadership complement each other and successful people managers will use both to move the business forward.
About the author
Samuel Day is the Managing Director of Happening People. Happening People provides organisational development strategies and people management consultancy to Australia’s leading businesses and executive leaders, and is the provider of www.managersdoor.com.